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ADDRESS OF H.H.B. THE PATRIARCH OF JERUSALEM TO THE ARMENIAN DELEGATION ON THEIR VISIT TO THE PATRIARCHATE FOR THE FEAST OF THE NATIVITY

 

9 January 2018

Your Beatitude Patriarch Nourhan,

Your Eminences,

Your Graces,

Beloved Members of our Respective Brotherhoods,

Dear Fathers,

We welcome you to our Rum Orthodox Patriarchate and we thank you very much for your greetings on the occasion of our celebration of the Nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ. In this season we sing

O Christ, the true Light who enlightens and sanctifies

 every person who comes into the world,

let the light of your countenance be marked upon us,

that in it we may say the light unapproachable.

(Prayer from the First Hour, Christmas Eve)

We give thanks for the true Light that has come into the world, and we take to heart the implications of the Incarnation of our world. In this Holy City and Holy Land of the divine-human encounter, we know the power of the holy places to renew and refresh the soul and give hope to all who worship God in them.

We also give thanks at this time for the support that we have received from religious and governmental leaders around the world as we have shared with them our concerns about the new pressures and difficulties that the Christian communities of this City and region are now facing. We have been heartened by their statements in support of the Status Quo and their condemnation of those radical elements in our region that would like to turn Jerusalem and the Holy Land into an exclusive, rather than an inclusive society, in blatant disregard of our historic right and privileges and of our multi-ethnic, multi-cultural, multi-religious landscape.

We are grateful that the Heads of the Churches of the Holy Land have expressed our solidarity in this matter and that we stand united. The well-known challenges, that is the Bill of Church Lands that is circulating in the Knesset and the recent judgment in the Jaffa Gate case, have alerted us all to the threat to the Status Quo that is before us. The Christian Community is of the essence of the Holy Land and the Middle East, and this presence must be upheld and supported by all.

As we keep this glorious feast, may the true Light of the Sun of Justice, that is the newborn Christ, that enlightens everyone who comes into the world, enlighten our hearts and minds and may he give us strength and resolve in our spiritual mission to guard and serve the Holy Places, and to ensure the well-being of the Christian presence here.

Thank you.




ADDRESS OF H.H.B. THE PATRIARCH OF JERUSALEM TO THE FRANCISCAN CUSTODY FOR THEIR VISIT TO THE PATRIARCH FOR THE FEAST OF THE NATIVITY

 

9 January 2018

Your Paternity, dear Father Francesco,

Beloved Members of our respective Brotherhoods,

Dear Fathers,

We welcome you to our Patriarchate for this happy Feast, and we thank you for your kind greetings as we celebrate the Nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ. We sing with jubilation

Your nativity, O Christ our God,

 has illumined the world like the Light of Wisdom.

The Uncreated Light that shines from the cave at Bethlehem not only illumines us; it gives hope to our region and our world. For this is the Light that the darkness can never overcome.

As we look back over the year that is past, we recall the 800th anniversary of the arrival of Father Elia da Cortona and his friar companions at Akko in the year 1217. We were pleased to be able to be a part of your celebrations in Assisi by the presence of our representative, His Eminence Archbishop Nectarios, and we are glad that this year also saw the significant collaboration between us in the restoration and rededication of the Sacred Edicule of the Holy Sepulchre.

For all this we give thanks to God, and we wish to express to you, dear Father Francesco, our gratitude to you for your commitment to the security and well-being of the Holy Places. Our unity of purpose in this endeavor is of supreme importance for the good not just of our respective Brotherhoods and communities, but also for the Christian presence and witness in the Holy Land and the Middle East.

Our co-operation has not only accomplished a great deal, it has laid an important foundation as we look to phase II of the work on the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, and as we look to the renovation and restoration of the Sacred Grotto of the Basilica of the Nativity. Both these projects will require our ongoing relationship of trust and mutual respect.

Even as we celebrate all these good things, we share a mutual concern for threats against the Christian community that have increased in recent months. The Bill of Church Lands would, if passed, significantly alter the provisions of the Status Quo and intrude on the historic rights of the Churches. We are all deeply concerned that such legislation is even being considered at all. And the Jaffa Gate case represents and assault on the Christian Quarter by a group of radical extremists who seek to destroy the multi-cultural, multi-ethnic, and multi-religious integrity of Jerusalem.

We are encouraged by the support we have received from the international community, both from Church and governmental leaders. There have been many public expressions of concern and support, and this is an encouragement to both our Brotherhoods to remain resolute both in our pastoral ministry to our communities and to pilgrims, and also to ensuring the Christian patrimony that Divine Providence has entrusted in our care.

The Incarnation of the Divine Logos, who deigned to accept our human nature and our human life, and who therefore knew our suffering in himself, is the source of our joy and our hope in this mission. As we celebrate the Nativity, we ask His Most Holy Mother the Theotokos to pray for us, that the one who contained within her womb the Uncontainable One, may give us strength by her prayers, that we may be embraced by the Light of Wisdom.

We wish you a happy Christmas and New Year.

Thank you.

 




ADDRESS OF H.H.B. THE PATRIARCH OF JERUSALEM TO THE FRANCISCAN CUSTODY FOR THEIR VISIT TO THE PATRIARCH FOR THE FEAST OF THE NATIVITY

 

9 January 2018

Your Paternity, dear Father Francesco,

Beloved Members of our respective Brotherhoods,

Dear Fathers,

We welcome you to our Patriarchate for this happy Feast, and we thank you for your kind greetings as we celebrate the Nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ. We sing with jubilation

Your nativity, O Christ our God,

 has illumined the world like the Light of Wisdom.

The Uncreated Light that shines from the cave at Bethlehem not only illumines us; it gives hope to our region and our world. For this is the Light that the darkness can never overcome.

As we look back over the year that is past, we recall the 800th anniversary of the arrival of Father Elia da Cortona and his friar companions at Akko in the year 1217. We were pleased to be able to be a part of your celebrations in Assisi by the presence of our representative, His Eminence Archbishop Nectarios, and we are glad that this year also saw the significant collaboration between us in the restoration and rededication of the Sacred Edicule of the Holy Sepulchre.

For all this we give thanks to God, and we wish to express to you, dear Father Francesco, our gratitude to you for your commitment to the security and well-being of the Holy Places. Our unity of purpose in this endeavor is of supreme importance for the good not just of our respective Brotherhoods and communities, but also for the Christian presence and witness in the Holy Land and the Middle East.

Our co-operation has not only accomplished a great deal, it has laid an important foundation as we look to phase II of the work on the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, and as we look to the renovation and restoration of the Sacred Grotto of the Basilica of the Nativity. Both these projects will require our ongoing relationship of trust and mutual respect.

Even as we celebrate all these good things, we share a mutual concern for threats against the Christian community that have increased in recent months. The Bill of Church Lands would, if passed, significantly alter the provisions of the Status Quo and intrude on the historic rights of the Churches. We are all deeply concerned that such legislation is even being considered at all. And the Jaffa Gate case represents and assault on the Christian Quarter by a group of radical extremists who seek to destroy the multi-cultural, multi-ethnic, and multi-religious integrity of Jerusalem.

We are encouraged by the support we have received from the international community, both from Church and governmental leaders. There have been many public expressions of concern and support, and this is an encouragement to both our Brotherhoods to remain resolute both in our pastoral ministry to our communities and to pilgrims, and also to ensuring the Christian patrimony that Divine Providence has entrusted in our care.

The Incarnation of the Divine Logos, who deigned to accept our human nature and our human life, and who therefore knew our suffering in himself, is the source of our joy and our hope in this mission. As we celebrate the Nativity, we ask His Most Holy Mother the Theotokos to pray for us, that the one who contained within her womb the Uncontainable One, may give us strength by her prayers, that we may be embraced by the Light of Wisdom.

We wish you a happy Christmas and New Year.

Thank you.

 




ADDRESS OF H.H.B. THE PATRIARCH OF JERUSALEM TO THE HEADS OF CHURCHES AND HEADS OF THE COMMUNITIES OF THE HOLY LAND ON THEIR VISIT FOR THE FEAST OF THE NATIVITY

 

9 January 2018

Your Beatitudes,

Your Eminences,

Your Graces,

Beloved Members of our Respective Churches and Communities,

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

We are delighted to greet you, dear Friends, at this joyous season, and we thank you for your Christmas greetings. As we sing in our worship

Let the creation rejoice exceedingly:

for the Creator now makes himself to be created,

and he who was before all things now makes himself

known as God newly revealed.

(Canticle Nine from Compline of the Forefeast)

As we celebrate the incarnation of the Divine Logos, we celebrate both the universal and the particular of the divine-human encounter. For by his incarnation, God has taken on our human flesh, and so saved all humanity; and by this same Incarnation, God became a human being in a particular time and place, and made this City and Land holy by his life, by the shedding of his redeeming blood, and by entrusting his body to this earth.

As we keep this great feast of our salvation, we wish to take this opportunity to express our gratitude to our new-born Lord, for, according to Saint Cyril of Alexandria, “he was born in the flesh so that we might be born in his own spirit; the Son of God became the Son of Man so that the sons of man may become sons of God.” It is in this confidence that recently we have stood united as the Heads of the Churches in the face of new and unprecedented challenges, especially related to the Status Quo of Jerusalem and more specifically the Christian Quarter. Our unity of purpose is not for ourselves alone; our unity is our Christian martyria – a sign of hope for our world in which there is so much division and confusion.

The Incarnation of the Divine Logos is the reminder to us of our spiritual mission here in guarding and serving the Holy Places, and in pastoring the Christian community, which has always called this City and region our home. Because the Incarnate Logos has walked on this very ground, we have an enduring commitment to ensure that Jerusalem and the Holy Land remain an inclusive society where there is a vibrant and vital Christian presence.

And we say this because our mission is to spread and proclaim the values of the Gospel of love, forgiveness, justice, and reconciliation.

We have taken our cause to the international forum, and we have received tremendous encouragement and support. This has been deeply moving for us, and we are happy to say that those who we have met these last several months have a clear understanding of the pressures we are all facing in our pastoral ministries to our respective communities, and many have made strong public statements of support. We take this opportunity to express our thanks to His Excellency Archbishop Pizzaballa, who was instrumental in arranging a historic meeting with His Holiness, Pope Francis, and to His Grace, Archbishop Dawani, who helped set up our meeting with His Grace, Archbishop Welby, as well as with members of the House of Lords.

We must acknowledge the fact that those who we have met have shown to us that they are indeed our brothers and our firm supporters, and that they are deeply concerned for all our respective communities.

We shall continue this work by God’s grace, and we wish to take this blessed occasion to emphasize once again the importance of our unity and our mutual respect in this regard. The threats that we face are not against our community only, but against the Christian community of Jerusalem and the Holy Land as a whole; and together we must face these threats to ensure that the framework and structures that have guaranteed our historic and inalienable rights and privileges down the ages remain in place and in force. This is for the good of the multi-ethnic, multi-cultural, multi-religious character of Jerusalem.

We thank you for this Christmas gathering and your greetings. Let us congratulate today the new Lutheran Bishop-elect, the Reverend Sani Ibrahim Azhar. We assure you, dear friends, of our prayers this Christmastide as we rejoice with the whole creation that the Creator has been born among us, full of grace and truth, to be the light that enlightens our hearts and minds, who brings hope to the world.

Thank you.




ADDRESS OF H.H.B. THE PATRIARCH OF JERUSALEM TO THE HEADS OF CHURCHES AND HEADS OF THE COMMUNITIES OF THE HOLY LAND ON THEIR VISIT FOR THE FEAST OF THE NATIVITY

 

9 January 2018

Your Beatitudes,

Your Eminences,

Your Graces,

Beloved Members of our Respective Churches and Communities,

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

We are delighted to greet you, dear Friends, at this joyous season, and we thank you for your Christmas greetings. As we sing in our worship

Let the creation rejoice exceedingly:

for the Creator now makes himself to be created,

and he who was before all things now makes himself

known as God newly revealed.

(Canticle Nine from Compline of the Forefeast)

As we celebrate the incarnation of the Divine Logos, we celebrate both the universal and the particular of the divine-human encounter. For by his incarnation, God has taken on our human flesh, and so saved all humanity; and by this same Incarnation, God became a human being in a particular time and place, and made this City and Land holy by his life, by the shedding of his redeeming blood, and by entrusting his body to this earth.

As we keep this great feast of our salvation, we wish to take this opportunity to express our gratitude to our new-born Lord, for, according to Saint Cyril of Alexandria, “he was born in the flesh so that we might be born in his own spirit; the Son of God became the Son of Man so that the sons of man may become sons of God.” It is in this confidence that recently we have stood united as the Heads of the Churches in the face of new and unprecedented challenges, especially related to the Status Quo of Jerusalem and more specifically the Christian Quarter. Our unity of purpose is not for ourselves alone; our unity is our Christian martyria – a sign of hope for our world in which there is so much division and confusion.

The Incarnation of the Divine Logos is the reminder to us of our spiritual mission here in guarding and serving the Holy Places, and in pastoring the Christian community, which has always called this City and region our home. Because the Incarnate Logos has walked on this very ground, we have an enduring commitment to ensure that Jerusalem and the Holy Land remain an inclusive society where there is a vibrant and vital Christian presence.

And we say this because our mission is to spread and proclaim the values of the Gospel of love, forgiveness, justice, and reconciliation.

We have taken our cause to the international forum, and we have received tremendous encouragement and support. This has been deeply moving for us, and we are happy to say that those who we have met these last several months have a clear understanding of the pressures we are all facing in our pastoral ministries to our respective communities, and many have made strong public statements of support. We take this opportunity to express our thanks to His Excellency Archbishop Pizzaballa, who was instrumental in arranging a historic meeting with His Holiness, Pope Francis, and to His Grace, Archbishop Dawani, who helped set up our meeting with His Grace, Archbishop Welby, as well as with members of the House of Lords.

We must acknowledge the fact that those who we have met have shown to us that they are indeed our brothers and our firm supporters, and that they are deeply concerned for all our respective communities.

We shall continue this work by God’s grace, and we wish to take this blessed occasion to emphasize once again the importance of our unity and our mutual respect in this regard. The threats that we face are not against our community only, but against the Christian community of Jerusalem and the Holy Land as a whole; and together we must face these threats to ensure that the framework and structures that have guaranteed our historic and inalienable rights and privileges down the ages remain in place and in force. This is for the good of the multi-ethnic, multi-cultural, multi-religious character of Jerusalem.

We thank you for this Christmas gathering and your greetings. Let us congratulate today the new Lutheran Bishop-elect, the Reverend Sani Ibrahim Azhar. We assure you, dear friends, of our prayers this Christmastide as we rejoice with the whole creation that the Creator has been born among us, full of grace and truth, to be the light that enlightens our hearts and minds, who brings hope to the world.

Thank you.




CHRISTMAS GREETINGS FROM H.H.B. THE PATRIARCH OF JERUSALEM THEOPHILOS TO THE FRANCISCAN CUSTODY OF THE HOLY LAND

 

Your Paternity Father Francesco,

Your Eminences,

Your Graces,

Beloved Members of our Respective Fraternities,

Dear Fathers,

It is with great joy that we greet you, Your Excellency, dear Father Francesco, and your community as you celebrate the Incarnation of the Divine Logos, our Lord Jesus Christ, especially in this year in which you also mark the 800th anniversary of the presence of the Custody in the Holy Land. We recall that Saint Francis himself had a deep devotion to this feast, and is credited with the creation of the first Christmas crèche. Saint Francis himself said:

I want to do something that will recall the memory of that Child who was born in Bethlehem, to see with bodily eyes the inconveniences of his infancy, how he lay in the manger, and how the ox and donkey stood by.

The whole world looks to the Holy City of Bethlehem and the Holy Land with this same longing, the longing to see with our own eyes, and to know in our hearts, the mystery of this divine-human encounter.

As we celebrate the Christmas feast, we remember in thanksgiving the great event of this year as we celebrated the renovation of the Sacred Edicule. A momentous event in itself, it also represented a new and deeper level of co-operation between our two fraternities, to whom Divine Providence has entrusted the care and guardianship of the Holy Sites. Even now the discoveries that lay beneath the Edicule are capturing the religious and spiritual imaginations of the world. On this occasion we wish to express our gratitude to you and your fraternity once again for this special co-operation.

We look forward to the second phase of this important work, which encompasses the area beneath the floor of the rotunda.

Our deeper co-operation has also found important fruit in our joint response to less happy events of this year, most especially the proposed law that is circulating in the Knesset that will alter the provisions, rights, and privileges of the Status Quo, as well as the unacceptable attack on our “Jaffa Gate” in which radical settler groups are attempting an intrusion into the Christian Quarter in an attempt to strike at the heart of the multi-cultural, multi-ethnic and multi-religious character of Jerusalem.

Our unity as the Heads of the Churches, Your Paternity in our opposition to these common threats not only to our historic rights, but also to the integrity of this Holy City and Holy Land, is so important. In our pastoral ministry we are all committed to a vital and vibrant Christian community here, and we are also committed to keeping open to all people without distinction access to the Holy Sites as places of devotion and worship.

As we rejoice with you in the spirit of Saint Francis, who recognized the importance of the Holy Places as a source of spiritual renewal and refreshment, let us remain united in our resolve in the ministry that has been entrusted to us. The earth and the heavens exult as heaven comes down to earth and the incarnate Logos takes on our human flesh and our human life. As Saint Francis himself wrote:

Let the heavens and the earth praise him, the Glorious One,

Let us praise and exalt him above all for ever.

We wish you, Your Excellency, and all your brethren and communities, a blessed Christmas and a peaceful New Year. May the light that shines from Bethlehem bring hope to our world, and strengthen us all.

Thank you.




CHRISTMAS GREETINGS FROM H.H.B. THE PATRIARCH OF JERUSALEM THEOPHILOS TO THE APOSTOLIC ADMINISTRATOR OF THE LATIN PATRIARCHATE IN JERUSALEM

 

Your Excellency, dear Archbishop Pizzaballa, Apostolic Administrator of the Latin Patriarchate in Jerusalem,

Your Eminences,

Your Graces,

Dear Fathers,

The whole creation rejoices at the birth of the incarnate Logos, as we hear in a beautiful hymn in the Orthodox tradition

Let the creation now cast off all things old,

beholding you, our Creator, made a child;

for by your birth you shaped all things afresh,

making them new once more

and leading them back to their first beauty.

In union with this cosmic rejoicing we greet you, Your Excellency, and your community as you celebrate the Christmas feast.

The mystery of the incarnation of the Divine Logos has made this Holy Land unique. Here in the divine-human encounter, God has restored us to our first beauty and has made all things new. The sacred history of this land, and the witness of our communities down the ages, are a living testimony to this great act of the new creation in our Lord Jesus Christ.

We take this opportunity to mark once again the importance during this last year of our co-operation in the restoration of the Sacred Edicule, the significance of which cannot be overstated. Not only have we preserved the holiest of all Sites for generations to come, but we have also understood afresh the testimony of sacred history in this land. Archaeology has confirmed what faith has affirmed. We wish to express once again our gratitude to you for the leadership that you have shown in this entire endeavor.

The investigations of the Edicule strengthen us in our resolve in the ministry that has been entrusted to us by Divine Providence to continue not only in our guardianship of the Holy Places, but also in our Pastoral leadership in the face of assaults on the traditional rights and privileges of the Churches enshrined in the Status Quo and the ongoing vitality of the Christian presence in the Holy Land and in our region.

As we co-operated in the restoration of the Sacred Edicule, so we recognize the common challenges we face, most notably with respect to the proposed bill circulating in the Knesset that would significantly alter the provisions of the Status Quo, as well as the unacceptable attack of the radical settlers on “Jaffa Gate”, who unfortunately won a wrongful court judgment against us.

We cannot but thank you for the instrumental assistance you gave in a arranging our recent meeting in the Vatican with His Holiness Pope Francis, where we discussed our common interests regarding the status of Jerusalem and displacement so much of the Christian population and others from their ancient homes in the Holy Land and the Middle East.

We have been moved by the support that we have received not only for us, but for all the Churches and communities in the Holy Land. The world community recognizes that the Holy Land is a unique testimony to the divine-human encounter; the world community also understands that the integrity of Jerusalem and the Holy Land depend on the well-being of the Christian presence here, a presence that is guaranteed by the Status Quo.

As we join with you in your celebrations of the Nativity, we re-commit ourselves with you to the urgent work before us. The Divine Logos took on our human flesh in Bethlehem so that hope might be restored to the human family. Our pastoral mission is to keep this same hope alive, so that the Christian communities who live here in the Holy Land, as well as the many thousands of pilgrims who come here every month, may be renewed and refreshed.

May God bless you, Your Excellency, your bishops, your clergy, and your communities as you celebrate Christmas, and may God strengthen you in your pastoral ministry in the New Year.

Thank you.




ADDRESS OF H.H.B. THE PATRIARCH OF JERUSALEM THEOPHILOS TO THE PRESIDENT OF ISRAEL ON THE OCCASION THE CHRISTMAS AND NEW YEAR RECEPTION

 

27 December 2017

Your Excellency Mr. President,

Your Excellency Mr. Dery,

Respected Members of the Government,

Beloved Fellow Heads of Churches and Leaders of Communities of Faith,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

We greet you, Mr. President, as our communities of faith are celebrating this season of light and hope and preparing for the New Year. We in Jerusalem are keenly aware that at this time of the year the eyes of the world are focused on this Holy City and on our Holy Land. At a time of widespread difficulties and confusion for the human family around the world, Jerusalem is the universal symbol of peace and of the vision of a new future for humanity, in which all will be reconciled.

As a Jerusalemite, we know that you, Mr. President, understand the richness of the meaning of Jerusalem. We know of your firm commitment to the multi-ethnic, multi-cultural, and multi-religious character of Jerusalem and the Holy Land, even in the face of some criticism. And we wish to express to you our gratitude for the positive action that you have taken to help promote the true integrity of this Holy City and the well-being of all our peoples. We are also aware of your support for both pilgrims and the local faithful to be able to venerate the shrines and to worship freely.

We take this opportunity to re-commit ourselves to working to ensure that this unique character of Jerusalem is maintained, since it is the divine-human encounter that gives our Holy City and our Holy Land its special character. In this regard we recall the beautiful words of the Psalmist,

Pray for the peace in Jerusalem:

May they prosper who love you.

(Psalm 122:6)

In the recent academic dialogue between the Orthodox Church and Judaism, hosted by us in the presence of the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and with the participation of distinguished Jewish scholars, two issues were highlighted;  the spiritual and religious significance of Jerusalem for all people. And it was pointed out that peace cannot be achieved by raising physical barriers, but rather by opposing prejudice and bigotry of all kinds, and by promoting mutual respect in accordance with the witness of the Holy Scriptures that God made humanity in God’s image and likeness (Gen. 1:26).

It is in this context that Jerusalem is considered theocentric and not anthropocentric, for Almighty God is the central focus of our universe. This means that the dignity of each man, woman, and child is precisely this divine image and likeness of which we read in the Book of Genesis. Without this fundamental truth, it is impossible to understand the full significance of Jerusalem.

Our Holy City of Jerusalem is passing the most testing of times. Developments are placing huge pressures on our respective communities making them experience unease, anxiety and disquietude. Mr. President, we know that you appreciate how the Status Quo, with its internationally recognized set of rights, rules and customs, enables all the religious communities and the civil authorities to carry out our respective roles in harmony, and that it must remain in full effect so that all may work under its provisions without any alteration or amendment.

Inasmuch as indeed we appreciate your sincere embrace of the communities that live in the State of Israel, Mr. President, we cannot hide our concern about recent developments that relate to our Christian communities in particular. We remain troubled about the proposed bill circulating in the Knesset that intrudes upon the rights of Churches and the provisions of the Status Quo. We are also hoping that present decision-makers will be assiduous in curbing radical groups in our society who seek to make Jerusalem and the Holy Land an exclusive, rather than an inclusive society. We remain confident that we will soon rejoice a positive outcome in the “Jaffa Gate” case that is now before the High Court.

The true identity of Jerusalem and the Holy Land depends on the well-being of all our communities of faith. As you know, and as we are always emphasizing, this is a multi-ethnic, multi-cultural, and multi-religious landscape, and without this diversity, the true nature of our Jerusalem is lost.

We say this because our spiritual responsibilities embrace believers across civil and religious boundaries: for they are within Israel, the Palestinian Authority, and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, as well as within the three Abrahamic traditions. As communities of the Scriptures, we are committed to promoting peace, co-existence, and harmony among all people, as we read in the spirit of the Scriptures:

For God himself is our peace…he has broken down the dividing wall, and has abolished enmity.

(cf. Eph.2:14)

We take the opportunity of this blessed celebration to thank you once again, Mr. President, for all that you do for all the peoples of Jerusalem and this country.

As we look to a new year, may this season of light and hope, in which all our religious communities are celebrating, be also a season of light and hope for our hurting world. May God bless you, Mr. President, in your leadership, and may God bless all the peoples of our beloved Holy Land.

Thank you.

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MESSAGE OF HIS HOLY BEATITUDE THE PATRIARCH OF JERUSALEM THEOPHILOS III ON THE OCCASION OF CHRISTMAS 2017

 

“He that was begotten of the Father before the

morning star without a mother, is today on

earth become incarnate of thee without a father;

wherefore, a star announceth the good tidings to the

Magi; and the Angels with shepherds hymn thy seedless

childbirth, O Full of Grace.”

(Kontakion: Synaxis of the Most Holy Theotokos)

 

During the joyous and glorious period of the Holy Twelve-days the Church as much as the whole of humanity celebrate a divine and heavenly event, an event that is at the same time splendid and marvelous, strange and paradox. We celebrate the event of God’s peaceful visit and healing intervention in man’s life. The Church proclaims the event of the incarnate Epiphany of God in the world. It confesses that God, who has created man according to His image and likeness, remodeled him by the Son’s resemblance to man according to the divine beauty given to him before the fall. In the presence of His Only-Begotten Son and Word, God became incarnate, He was made flesh, He became human. “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us” (John 1.14) Through the Incarnation and nativity in the flesh of His Son by the Ever-Virgin, during the reign of Caesar Octavius Augustus in Bethlehem, God revived and pulled man out of the depths of his fall and corruption and lifted him in the heights of heaven, making him “partaker of the divine nature” (2 Peter 1.4). For this offering, grace and unspeakable joy given to humanity, the Church chants with the hymn writer today: “the Lord hath sent forth redemption to his people”; with the Evangelist: “a Saviour has been born to us today, who is Christ”; and with the hymn writer: “Our Saviour from on high hath visited us” and “Christ is born, give ye glory, Christ is on earth, be ye exalted”.

Eye-witnesses to this unheard of mystery, namely God’s incarnate presence in the world, are; the Ever-Virgin, who contributed to this reality, and conceived by the Holy Spirit, became pregnant and gave birth in the flesh and swaddled Christ; Joseph the elder, her companion from Nazareth to Bethlehem for Caesar’s census, from Bethlehem to Egypt on their escape, and to their return in Nazareth, from which the Lord was called a Nazarene. Eye-witnesses are also simple farmers, shepherds watching over their flocks, who drew nigh in order to see and experience the mystery, after the invitation and the vision of angels, who were chanting in heaven the angelic hymn: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men” (Luke 2.14). Moreover, eye-witnesses were men of science, Magi Kings from Persia, researchers of the universe. They were called from afar by a star in heaven, to herald the beginning of the Church of nations, so that from the idolatry of the stars they would come to the worship of the Sun of Righteousness. And indeed, in this simple and humble Cave they beheld in ecstasy “the babe lying in a manger” (Luke 2.16), and recognizing Him they bowed and worshiped the Incarnate God made man in the flesh by the Virgin, and offered Him their gifts of reverence “gold, and frankincense and myrrh” (Matthew 2.11).

In this manner did the wealth of Christ’s Divinity shine upon men, in the humility of the Cave and the poverty of the swaddling clothes. Christ took upon Himself the form of a man, humbling Himself, so that in this form He would sanctify and glorify man. “Though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich” (2 Cor. 8.9). Being true God, strong and mighty, He took on the feebleness of the human flesh and became God-human, one person in two natures, “who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him” (Acts 10.38).

This philanthropy of God is preached in the Holy Spirit by the Church, the Body of the Incarnate God, our Lord Jesus Christ who was Crucified in the flesh and Resurrected from the dead for the salvation of the world. Christ has bequeathed the Church with the perpetuation of His peace-making, reconciling, sanctifying and salvific mission in the world. The Church manifests and preaches His mission to its members, but also to all those who by their free will do not accept the message of the Lord of peace, but act remorselessly and inhumanly instead, just like Herod did to the new-born King and the infants. They neither sharpen their plows for plowing, nor their sickles for reaping; on the contrary, they sharpen their swords in order to rend each other to pieces. They spend the wealth of God’s creation to compatible and incompatible weapons and wars, they sacrifice hundreds of thousands of innocent people through atrocious terrorist acts and they dare say this is done in the name of God. The Church speaks to them in love. It teaches peace, to those near and afar. It sanctifies the people, tames their morals and remains an oasis, a paradise and the visible manifestation of the Kingdom of God on earth. It shares its spiritual and material goods with the people philanthropically. It tolerates persecution; being slandered, it forgives and prays. It calls everybody, saying: “come and see” (John 1.46).

This is done also by the Church of Jerusalem in the Holy Land, which defends and preserves the Holy Shrines and of course the Basilica of the Nativity in Bethlehem, built by Constantine and Justine the Emperors. The Church of Jerusalem prays from the God-receiving Cave for the peace of the whole world, peace in the Middle East and the Holy Land, for the progress, prosperity, divine blessing and salvation of the noble Christmas pilgrims, for the glory of the born-in-flesh Jesus Christ together with the Father in the Holy Spirit unto the ages of ages. 

  In the Holy Town of Bethlehem, CHRISTMAS 2017

Fervent supplicant for all before God,

THEOPHILOS III

Patriarch of Jerusalem

 

 




THE CHRISTMAS MESSAGE OF THE PATRIARCHS AND HEADS OF LOCAL CHURCHES IN JERUSALEM

“But the angel said to them [the shepherds], “Do not be afraid; for see – I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born…a saviour, who is the Messiah, the Lord” (Luke 2.10).

At this moment the world’s gaze is fixed on Jerusalem, a city that is holy to all Abrahamic faiths. We, the Patriarchs and Heads of Churches in Jerusalem, as we approach the celebration of Christmas, reaffirm our clear position in calling for the preservation of the Status Quo of the Holy City until a just peace agreement has been reached between the Israelis and Palestinians on the bases of negotiations and International law.

The Christians of the Holy Land, know that their presence and witness is strictly related to the holy sites and their accessibility as places of meeting and encounter for unity between peoples of different faiths. It is the holy places that have given the region a meaning.

Any exclusive political approach to Jerusalem will deprive the city of its real essence and characteristics and tramples on the mechanism that has maintained peace throughout the ages. Jerusalem, is a great gift; a tabernacle; hallowed ground to the entire world. Attempting to possess the Holy City Jerusalem, or confine it with terms of exclusivity will lead to a very dark reality.

At this time, we await the coming of the Light, we bring you great tidings of joy, hope and peace from the City of hope and peace, Jerusalem! Year after year we join the Church universal in celebrating the birth of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. The incarnation of the Word made flesh continues, after two millennia, to be a source of joy, hope and peace, despite the suffering and affliction of many nations and communities around the globe.

The angelic proclamation to the shepherds in Bethlehem brought good news, great joy, and a promise of peace to all people, especially those who are suffering and live in fear and anxiety of what the future holds for them and their loved ones. The angel appeared to the shepherds who were watching their flock at night, and the glory of the Lord came to dispel the darkness of their night and to announce the new day that had dawned with the birth of Christ. At that moment the shepherds were afraid and could not comprehend the meaning of the angelic proclamation, and how the birth would impact their lives and the life of their community.

These people of Bethlehem who suffered under the Roman occupation and their compatriot Herod, and subjected to the distinctions and exclusions of the socio-political economy, were confronted with a different economy: God’s providence. The message of the angels revealed to the shepherds – out of their own context – a new reality, where the concepts of power and authority are transformed by the incarnation of God in a lowly manger.

The shepherds responded immediately to this theophany and went to see the “thing that has taken place which the Lord has made known to [them]”. The world today is confronted once more with the challenge or responding to the angelic proclamation which demands participation in the Divine economy in bringing forth joy, hope and peace to a world torn apart by violence, injustice and greed.

We continue to hold the whole Region of the Middle East in our prayers, and ask the Prince of Peace to inspire the hearts of all those in authority to walk in the path of peace, justice and reconciliation among the nations. As we celebrate the coming of Christ as the Light of the world, we are inspired by and take comfort in the words of the hymn of Zechariah – “the dawn from on high will break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace”.

We wish you all a happy Christmas and a peaceful new year.

Patriarchs and Heads of Churches in Jerusalem

+Patriarch Theophilos III, Greek Orthodox Patriarchate

+Patriarch Nourhan Manougian, Armenian Apostolic Orthodox Patriarchate

+Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa, Apostolic Administrator, Latin Patriarchate

+Fr. Francesco Patton, ofm, Custos of the Holy Land

+Archbishop Anba Antonious, Coptic Orthodox Patriarchate, Jerusalem

+Archbishop Swerios Malki Murad, Syrian Orthodox Patriarchate

+Archbishop Aba Embakob, Ethiopian Orthodox Patriarchate

+Archbishop Joseph-Jules Zerey, Greek-Melkite-Catholic Patriarchate

+Archbishop Mosa El-Hage, Maronite Patriarchal Exarchate

+Arcbhishop Suheil Dawani, Episcopal Church of Jerusalem and the Middle East

+Bishop Munib Younan, Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land

+Bishop Pierre Malki, Syrian Catholic Patriarchal Exarchate

+Msgr. Georges Dankaye’ , Armenian Catholic Patriarchal Exarchate