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ADDRESS OF H.H.B. THE PATRIARCH OF JERUSALEM THEOPHILOS AT THE MEETING OF THE EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE OF THE WORLD COUNCIL OF CHURCHES IN AMMAN

 

His Beatitude Theophillos III
Patriarch of Jerusalem

17 November 2017

 

Mr Secretary General,

Respected Members of the Executive Committee,

Dear Sisters and Brothers,

We welcome you to Amman in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan under the leadership of His Majesty King Abdullah II, and we bring you the blessings of the Holy City of Jerusalem. We are delighted to be able to host this meeting of your Executive Committee, and we wish to express our continued commitment to the work of the World Council of Churches.

You come to the Middle East at a difficult time for our region. The world community is united in the view that a vital, vibrant Christian community is an essential part of the multi-ethnic, multi-cultural, and multi-religious landscape of the Middle East. We are indigenous to this region, and indeed the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem is the oldest continuous religious institution here.

The roots of our Christian community are deep. They have been nourished by the blood of the prophets, saints and martyrs down the ages, and by the redeeming blood of our Lord Jesus Christ himself.

In our day, our Christian community is facing an unprecedented and serious threat.

While we understand that you have an agenda that you need to attend to, please allow us to bring to your attention some details of the present situation of the undermining of the “Status Quo”: those set of customs and rules that guarantee the Christian presence specifically in Jerusalem of which it is urgent that you are aware. We have been making this very same case to religious and governmental leaders around the world and now wish to bring this matter to our World Council of Churches through you.

As you know, for generations the sacred character  of the Holy Land has been protected by the Status Quo, which is recognized by both religious and civil authorities and the international community as protecting and guaranteeing the rights and privileges of the Churches, especially with respect to the holy sites and to other religious activity. The provisions of the Status Quo have been upheld carefully by successive civil authorities in our region.

Over the last several months, we have seen a new level of threat to the stability of our multi-ethnic, multi-cultural, multi-religious society in a number of attacks on religious communities – and especially on Christian communities.

There has been a marked and disturbing increase in so-called “price-tag hate crimes”, which are directed in many cases to the vandalism and desecration of holy places and cemeteries. While these acts have been condemned by all, including governments, they continue, and effective ways of preventing them and punishing the perpetrators are still to be found.

More threatening to the rights of religious communities is a proposed bill that is circulating in the Knesset that would, if passed, severely intrude on the rights of the Churches over their properties. Whether this bill has a chance of being passed is not the point; the mere fact that it has gained the signatures of one third of the members of the Knesset and should be discussed at all, is a new level of threat to the diversity of our society and the manner in which holy places have been managed and cared for, especially in the Old City of Jerusalem.

Most significant and worrying, however, are the underhanded actions of radical settler groups who in the majority of cases acquire property in Jerusalem’s Old City and elsewhere, utilizing illegitimate methods of coercion that lack proper authority. The most recent issue concerns the properties owned by the Patriarchate and known as the “Jaffa Gate” case, in which a radical settler group that has for many years been attempting to take over properties in the Christian Quarter in the Old City and thereby diminish the Christian presence in Jerusalem was given the properties. They have claimed to have acquired these properties through what we consider “illegitimate agreements that lack due authority”. Crucially negative was the fact that the District Court handed down a wrongful judgment in favour of the settler group. This judgment was in our view incorrect with respect to matters of the law and we are contesting it in the High Court, and bringing the matter to the international community for awareness and support.

It is the firm position of the Heads of the Churches in Jerusalem that the movement of these radical settler groups must be curbed and controlled and their intimidating tactics to exclude non-Jews from Jerusalem must be resisted to preserve the defining multi-faith tapestry of the Old City.

A number of religious leaders, including His All-holiness the Ecumenical Patriarch, His Holiness the Pope, and His Grace the Archbishop of Canterbury, have issued important statements in support of the Christian Community, the Heads of the Churches in the Holy Land, and the Patriarchate. It is important to emphasize to this Executive Committee that we enjoy a deep and complete unity of understanding and purpose among all the Heads of the Churches, and this has been a tremendous encouragement to us all, and of course, it is one of the great fruits in our region of our ongoing ecumenical endeavor. For this unity of understanding and purpose, we give thanks to God.

We hope very much that our World Council of Churches will continue in its mission in the Middle East to secure the position of the Christian Community against the new threats to our existence and freedom. We are deeply thankful for all the support that the World Council of Churches has always shown to the Christian community for the Holy Land and the Middle East, and we look forward to being able to join forces with you in order to increase advocacy for the common benefit of all our peoples and in deepening the peaceful co-existence among Jews, Christians and Muslims.

We pray that God will bless your deliberations in this meeting, and we assure you of our prayers and support. We take this opportunity to thank His Majesty, under whose rule the people of the Hashemite Kingdom enjoy religious freedom, tolerance, and co-existence.

Thank you.

 




ADDRESS OF H.H.B. THE PATRIARCH OF JERUSALEM AT THE CONFERENCE ON PLACES OF WORSHIP AND HOLY CITES IN CYPRUS

Conference on Places of Worship and Holy Sites
sponsored by the Conference of European Churches

Jerusalem as a Holy Site

His Beatitude Theophilos III
Patriarch of Jerusalem

9 November 201 7           

Your Beatitude Archbishop Chrysostom of Cyprus,

Dr. Elizabeth Kitamovitch,

Respected Participants in this Conference,

 Ladies and Gentlemen,

The matter before us is one of the utmost seriousness. The invitation to this conference outlined, in a concise and clear way, why the status and protection of Holy Sites is of such urgent importance.

Holy Sites are, of course, first and foremost holy to the particular religious tradition of which they are a witness. They are primarily places of worship and spiritual refreshment, and they are often the destination of pilgrims as well as frequently the regular places of worship for local religious communities.

But, as this conference recognizes, the significance and importance of Holy Sites are broader. To quote from a document preliminary to this gathering, “holy places can be sources of tensions which can affect peaceful coexistence instead of fostering social plurality and diversity.” This conference recognizes that holy places have a wider significance and are “not only the concern of believers.”

Fundamentally this conference acknowledges that the international community must understand and support the fact that there is “a particular right to manage holy sites, a right to own them, to gather there for religious purposes, and to perform religious ceremonies…we are speaking about the living heritage of holy places.”

We cannot overstate the crucial nature of these primary points in any discussion about holy places, and we wish to elaborate on them by considering Jerusalem as a holy site.

When we think of Jerusalem, we often think of the city as a place of holy sites, and this is true. Contained within the Old City there are scores of holy sites, and in the immediate vicinity there are many more. But today we wish to think of Jerusalem as a whole as a holy site in and of itself. We believe that this perspective will give us a singular insight into the subject before us.

There are many holy sites around the world, and many holy places that are the object of veneration to more than one religious group. But there is no other place on earth like Jerusalem. Jerusalem is unique in so many respects and this is well enough known that we do not need to enumerate those details here.

Yet we do wish to put forward the concept of Jerusalem as a holy site in and of itself, and not only as a geographical area that contains holy sites.

What is the significance of this position?

First, to say that the city itself is a holy site is to say something about its fundamental religious and spiritual identity. While there are or have been other cities and towns that have taken the adjective “holy” to themselves – one thinks of Constantinople and Rome, for example – no other city has had an identity similar to Jerusalem. And no other city has borne this kind of identity for anywhere near as long as Jerusalem.

When we consider that Jerusalem is holy not to one, but to three of the world’s major religious traditions, we find that Jerusalem sets itself apart in every respect.

But as we know, holiness is not just about geography. It is also about a less tangible, but just as compelling landscape – the landscape of the divine-human encounter.

The Holy Land is the only place on earth where, so the Abrahamic traditions affirm, Cod has communicated with humanity in clear and direct ways, and Jerusalem has been at the centre of this divine-human activity for millennia.

This is the only place on earth that has been visited by all the prophets, that has been nurtured by their blood, and that has been nurtured by the blood of the Righteous One, Jesus Christ.

This is the place on earth that gives hope to countless millions of people, near and far, who understand deep within their souls that Jerusalem is not simply an earthly city, but a promise of the peace and unity of all humankind. There is no more compelling evidence of this than in the thousands of pilgrims who flock to Jerusalem every month and who long to drink from the spiritual springs of the water of life that Jerusalem provides.

We cannot deny that Jerusalem is a contested holy site. Human failure and human sinfulness scar Jerusalem as much as they scar every other endeavour. But this is itself also evidence of the fundamental identity of Jerusalem as a holy site, for in these difficulties the eye of faith sees the force of evil that attempts to destroy the power that Jerusalem holds in its vocation as the true spiritual home of all humanity.

We must also always remember a great truth about holy places. While it is clear that holy places fall under the care and protection of particular religious groups, and for administrative purposes in our contemporary world we speak of “ownership” and the care and guardianship of them, it is crucial from a spiritual perspective that we understand that we do not possess holy places; they possess us. They embrace us in the mystery of the divine-human encounter. While divine providence has given the holy places into our care, we give ourselves to these holy places so that we may be true witnesses, true servants of the martyria of the holy places.

All of these observations mean that any undermining of the true nature of holy places is a very serious matter indeed. This conference is considering a range of important questions. Here we would like to give examples of how the fundamental nature of Jerusalem as a holy site is being undermined.

For generations the sacred character of the Holy Land has been protected by the Status Quo, which is recognized by both religious and civil authorities and the international community as protecting and guaranteeing the rights and privileges of the Churches, especially with respect to the holy sites and to other religious activity. The provisions of the Status Quo have been upheld carefully by successive civil authorities in our region.

Over the last several months, we have seen a new level of threat to the stability of our multi-ethnic, multi-cultural, multi-religious society of which our holy sites are concrete evidence.

Over the last few years, there has been a marked and disturbing increase in so-called “price tag hate crimes,” which are directed in many cases to the vandalism and desecration of holy places. While these acts have been condemned by all, including governments, they continue, and effective ways of preventing them and punishing the perpetrators are still to be found.

More threatening to the Status Quo and the rights of religious minorities is a proposed bill that is circulating in the Knesset that would, if passed, severely intrude on the rights of the Churches over their properties. Whether this bill has a chance of being passed is not the point; the mere fact that it has gained the signatures of one third of members of the Knesset and should be discussed at all is a new level of threat to the diversity of our society and the manner in which holy places have been managed and cared for.

Most significant and worrying, however, are the underhanded actions of radical settler groups who in the majority of cases acquire property in Jerusalem’s Old City and elsewhere utilizing illegitimate methods of coercion and undue authority. The most recent issue concerns the properties owned by the Patriarchate and known as the “I at Jafa Gate” case, in which a radical settler group that has for many years been attempting to take over properties in the Christian Quarter of the Old City and thereby diminish the Christian presence in Serti salem. They have claimed to have acquired these properties through what we consider “illegitimate agreements that lack due authority”. Crucially negative was the fact that the District Court handed down a wrongful judgment in favour of the settler group. This judgment was in our view incorrect with respect to matters of the law and we are contesting it in the High Court, and bringing the  matter to the international community for support.

The movement of these radical settler groups must be curbed and controlled end their intimidating tactics to rid Jerusalem of non-Jews must be resisted to preserve the crucial multi-faith tapestry of Jerusalem.

When we understand Jerusalem itself as a holy site, and not just the place where holy sites are found, these threats become all the more serious. And these incursions into traditional rights and protections of the Church in the Holy Land affect not just one religious group, but all.

As we consider in this conference what we all understand to be the “living heritage of holy places,” the issues that are currently before us in Jerusalem are of pressing concern to us all.

Thank you.




JERUSALEM PATRIARCHATE PARTICIPATES AT THE FOURTH INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE OF PASTORAL HEALTH CARE IN RHODES

From Wednesday 28th September/11th October to 2nd/15th October 2017, at the Holy Metropolis of Rhodes, Jerusalem Patriarchate participated at the 4th International Conference of Pastoral Health Care of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, with its representative Nun Euphemia, who serves at the Jerusalem Patriarchate Website.

At this Conference the aforementioned Nun read the address of H.H.B. our Father and Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos as written below:

Most Reverend Metropolitan Cyril of Rhodes,

Most Reverend Archbishops,

Reverend Fathers,

Ladies and Gentlemen

 

The Venerable Jerusalem Patriarchate salutes with great joy the beginning of the 4th International Conference of Pastoral Health Care, which is successfully organized by the Ecumenical Patriarchate on the topic “Rekindling Hope – Finding hope in the difficulties of life”. We are also glad as we participate in this Conference for the first time by the invitation of His All-Holiness the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew.

 

Undeniably the role of the Church in health care has always been determinant and pioneering; since the early Byzantine years, with the initiative of the Church, General Hospitals, Hospitals for the Mentally ill, Hospitals for the lepers, Old peoples’ homes, Orphanages and Social Benefits’ Foundations were founded, operated and sustained. The contribution of our Church Saints to the health care is well known. We can mention among others,  St. Bazil the Great with the marvellous Vasiliada, St. Chrysostom, St. Theodosios the Cenobiarch, St. Savvas the Sanctified, St. John the Merciful, St. Philothei of Athens.

This is the factual manifestation of the commandment that our Master and Lord gave us by His own example, as St. John Damascene says, a commandment sealed with “the blood, the water, the baptism”, which “were issued from the wound, through which man, the great wound was healed”, whose fall generated both physical and psychic impact (Vespers, Thomas Sunday).Moreover, the Evangelic message “For I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me” (Mat.35:36), does not draw our attention only to the illness of the body, but also to the mental distress that the patient may undergo, which demands psychological and emotional support.

Those suffering from physical or mental illness or even unfortunate social status, such as the refugees nowadays, have a special psychology, since existential matters can easily unsettle faith and hope in God, debilitate the person and drive him to despair. Nevertheless, by the grace of God, which His Ministers are able to convey to our fellow men, pain is experienced as a gift and illness as a chance “so that the dispersed children of God” are gathered “in one” (John 11:52). Physical illness acts as a means of humility to the soul of the faithful, allowing the grace of the Holy Spirit guide the person to “the likeness”, so that he can realise St. Paul’s saying “I rejoice in my sufferings” (Col. 1:24).

Therefore, the presence of scientifically and spiritually competent representatives of the Church, who convey the message of the Resurrected Christ as His witnesses to the patients, can be determining for the salvation of their souls. We are indebted to our fellow men to convey faith and hope, displaying affection and love, not centred in material things and temporary interest, but in the outcry of the humble spirit for incorrupt goods and the eternal Kingdom in heaven. Through such a state of the soul the faithful feels the power of our Saviour Jesus Christ coming to dwell in him, and he can exclaim rejoicing “I waited patiently for the Lord; and he inclined unto me, and heard my cry” (Psalm 40:1) and “Lord thou has lifted up the light of thy countenance upon us” (Psalm 4:7).

Rekindling thus hope, that “the harvest is truly great” (Luke 10:2) but the labourers are able to convey the salvific and hopeful message of the Resurrected Jesus Christ, our Lord, we are looking forward to the talks of the experts.

With love in Christ, from the Holy City of Jerusalem we convey the grace and the blessing of the All-holy and Life-giving Tomb of our Saviour Christ.

 

THEOPHILOS III

PATRIARCH OF JERUSALEM

From Secretariat-General

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HIS BEATITUDE THE PATRIARCH OF JERUSALEM THEOPHILOS ADDRESSING THE NATIONAL COUNCIL OF THE CHURCHES OF CHRIST USA (NCC)

Luncheon with the Heads of Churches of Jerusalem

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Opening Remarks

His Beatitude Patriarch Theophilos III

 

“For when two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them” (Mat. 18:20)

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

The Jerusalem Church is ready to welcome you here in our beloved city in the Holy Land. Your presence among us comes “as the dew of Hermon were falling on Jerusalem”, as the Psalmist says (Ps.132 [133] 3).

Your solidarity is highly appreciated, for we’ve been entrusted by the Divine Providence the guardianship and service of the Holy Places. And of course, the protection of the Christian character of Jerusalem on one hand, and on the other hand, the shepherding of our beloved flock. We also join in your hope to be strengthened here today as brothers and sisters in our resolve to work unceasingly for peace, wishing you great strength as you continue to advocate for such peace upon your return to the United States.

We would like to greet you with the greeting of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, “Peace be with you”. Peace to those who are near and those who are far. It is in this spirit that we welcome you.

 




HIS BEATITUDE THE PATRIARCH OF JERUSALEM THEOPHILOS’ APPEAL FOR THE PROTECTION OF THE CHRISTIAN RIGHTS IN THE CITY OF JERUSALEM

On Saturday evening, 30th July/12th August, a Press Conference was held with national, regional and international media at the Archdiocese of the Greek-Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem in Amman.

At this press conference, which was broadcasted live on Jordanian and national TV, on Noursat as well as on the Russian channel RT, His Beatitude the Patriarch of Jerusalem denounced the recent unjust decision of the Israeli Court, which gave effect to the illegal 2005 hiring contracts of the Jaffa Gate Hotels, belonging to the Patriarchate, contracts which were signed without, due authority and consent, by the then finance department assistant to the deposed Patriarch Eirinaios, Nikolaos Papademas and the Israeli organization “Ateret Cohanim”.

His Beatitude, also strongly rejected the proposed law, introduced by 40 members of the Knesset, which affects all the churches in the Holy Land and would severely restrict the rights of churches to deal freely and independently with their lands and would threaten their confiscation.

The text of the appeal of His Beatitude the Patriarch of Jerusalem is posted in English in the link below:

https://en.jerusalem-patriarchate.info/2017/08/12/34370

His Beatitude’s appeal was followed by answers through Archimandrite Christophoros to the reporters’ questions on the manner of management of the Patriarchate’s property and the protection of the Christians’ rights in the Holy Land as a whole and especially in Jerusalem, the Holy City of the three Monotheistic religions.

From Secretariat-General




PRESS CONFERENCE STATEMENT OF HIS BEATITUDE THE PATRIARCH OF JERUSALEM THEOPHILOS IN AMMAN

Amman – 12 August 2017

Good afternoon.

We thank you all for coming to this press conference.

We are here today to deliver this message from the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, under the leadership of His Majesty King Abdullah II,   who, according to the Status Quo and international law, is the acknowledged custodian of both Islamic and Christian Holy Sites in Our beloved Holy Land.

Over the past weeks,   Our Holy City of Jerusalem has been riding turbulent waves of developments that have thrown Our Patriarchate,   along with all the other Churches and Christian communities of the Holy Land,   into the rough seas of political tensions and agendas.   The latest of which is the well-known decision in the “Jaffa Gate” case, that so crossed the lines of justice and reasonableness.

We have stood silent,   bearing patient witness   to a harsh campaign against Us and against Our Patriarchate,   that seemed to grow in strength daily with false accusations and slander,   targeting Our heritage and Our integrity.   Today, it is Our call of duty and Our commitment,   entrusted to Us by the Lord, that lead Us to break Our silence and say:   Enough is Enough.

We are constrained to take this unprecedented action in calling this press conference to reject publicly and clearly   the unfair ruling of the Israeli District Court in the “Jaffa Gate” case.   This decade-long legal battle has resulted in an unjust decision which disregarded all of the Patriarchate’s clear and concrete legal evidence   proving bad faith, bribery and conspiracy.   Such a decision, in favour of the Settlor group Ateret Cohanim, can only be interpreted as politically motivated.

This bias decision,   which affects not only the Patriarchate, but also strikes at the very heart of the Christian Quarter of the Old City,   comes at an extremely delicate and sensitive time   and will certainly have the most negative effect on the Christian presence in the Holy Land.   It could well lead to escalated tension in our community that we are all working diligently to try and diffuse.

We shall be initiating an appeal process to the High Court of Justice, where we have confidence there will be a decision based purely on matters of law, procedure, and justice.   The Patriarchate shall now embark on everything within its power    so that this unjust ruling will be overturned.  

Our concern about politicisation of the “Jaffa Gate” case is made more acute by the recent action of 40 members of the Knesset,   who two weeks ago, signed a proposed bill for debate in the Israeli Parliament that would, if passed,   restrict severely the rights of the Churches to deal freely and independently with their lands and would threaten their confiscation.

This bill is a clear attempt to deprive Our 2,000-year-old Patriarchate,   as well as Our fellow Churches present for centuries in the Holy Land,   of our legitimate and historic freedom and independence.   This intolerable bill, if passed,   would be a clear violation of every international treaty that has governed the region, and would be an insupportable assault on the freedom of worship.

We are calling for an urgent meeting of the Heads of Churches of the Holy Land,

to co-ordinate our opposition and response to these alarming and serious developments that will affect not only the indigenous Christian community of the Holy Land, but each and every Christian around the world for whom Jerusalem and the Holy Land are of the utmost spiritual significance.

We remain fully committed to upholding Our pastoral and spiritual mission   as it has been entrusted to us by Divine Providence.    Even as We face these unprecedented and shocking developments,   We assure Our beloved Christian community in Our Holy Land    as well as in our region of the Middle East, and abroad,   that,   as the Patriarchate of the Jerusalem,   and the Brotherhood of the Holy Sepulchre,   We shall remain true to our mission to be the guardians and the servants of the Holy Tomb of Christ and all the Holy Sites.   We shall do all in Our power to uphold the status of the properties of the Patriarchate and our fellow Churches,   and We shall be constant in the protection of the Christian presence in our region, against which,   both, the judgement in the “Jaffa Gate” case,   and,   the proposed bill in the Knesset are such grievous assaults.

We cannot stress too highly the extreme seriousness of this situation.

We call upon President Trump,   President Putin,   King Abdullah II,   President Abbas, President Rivlin,   Prime Minister Tsipras,   President Anastasiades,   General Secretary Guterres,   President Juncker,

As well as all Our Brethren Heads of Churches in the world and

upon the international community,

to intervene to ensure that justice and freedom prevails in these matters.

Justice in this case benefits not just the Christian community here, but all the citizens of the Holy Land;   so that all who call the Holy City of Jerusalem and the Holy Land their home    may live in freedom and peace.

We pray to God Almighty   to strengthen Us and Our brethren in these harsh and difficult times.    May God crown our efforts with success, so that justice is done and peace is attained.

Thank you.

 




ADDRESS OF HIS BEATITUDE THE PATRIARCH OF JERUSALEM AT THE UNITED NATIONS ALLIANCE OF CIVILIZATIONS IN NEW YORK


On Tuesday, 5th/18th July 2017, a conference with the title “The Role of Religious Leaders in Peace-building in the Middle East” took place at the Headquarters of the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations (UNAOC) in New York, with representatives of the United Nations, Islam, Judaism and Christians, as sited on the schedule of this event: UNAOC

His Beatitude our Father and Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos , having being invited as the representative of the Christians of the Holy Land and the Middle East, gave the address below:

 

His Beatitude Theophilos III

Patriarch of Jerusalem

18 July 2017

Mr Secretary General,

Mr. Al-Nasser,

Your Excellency Mr. Dastis,

Rabbi Melchior,

Distinguished Fellow Participants,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is an honour and a privilege for us to participate in this important gathering on peace-building in the Middle East. As the oldest continuous religious institution in the Holy Land, the Patriarchate of Jerusalem has long been committed to this mission, and we bring the experience of what we call the Greek symbiosis – live together in respectful co-existence – to the urgent task of finding new ways to establish and deepen a lasting peace in our region. There has never been a more crucial time for this work, and we applaud both the United Nations and the Alliance of Civilizations for your focus on this.

From our perspective, we would like to take this opportunity to articulate what we believe to be several foundational aspects to enduring peace-building in the Middle East.

The first point we wish to emphasize is in the title of this colloquium. The building of a lasting peace in the Middle East is not simply a matter of political will or expediency. Without a proper understanding of the role of religion and of the responsibility of religious leaders in this process, we shall continue to stumble in our efforts for peace. We cannot pretend that religion is not a factor in the complexity of our life, nor can we ignore the significant role that religious leaders across the board in the Middle East must play if peace is to be given a real chance of emerging from our present extreme difficulties.

To pretend that religion is not important, or to think of the religious aspects of our common life in the Middle East as an inconvenient distraction from what others see as purely a political or diplomatic exercise is naive, and undermining of genuine peace-building at worst. Our region cannot be separated from its religious character. It is a place of prophets and saints, a meeting place of the human with the divine, and a source of spiritual refreshment for the entire world. All of this transcends states and man-made authorities. We must articulate, and soon, a proper understanding of the central role of religion and religious leaders in helping to create a new future for our region. The title of our meeting today, therefore, captures a truth of which we must not lose sight.

For generations in the Middle East, we have striven to find common ground on which all may stand – or perhaps better put – on which all may live in the full appreciation of our uniqueness as well as our shared heritage.

Once we accept the central importance of religion in the creation of a just and lasting peace in the Middle East, so much more falls into place.

We acknowledge our common faith that the Creator is One. However, we articulate our respective theologies, we are together the children of a great monotheistic tradition that is formative of the Abrahamic faiths, and unites different  religious groups as this does, and while we have long recognized this phenomenon, we have never lived its fullness with respect to creating a society that completely appreciates its force for good.

From this common belief in the One God flow many other uniting factors. We understand each other’s reverence for our Holy Books. We understand each other’s commitment to our ancient and living sacred Tradition. We understand each other’s formation in a liturgical life. We understand the strands of our life that are shaped by mysticism. We understand the instinct for personal and corporate prayer and piety. We understand the emphasis that we all have on the life of the community as a whole. And we understand the commitment that is deep in our respective traditions for the uniqueness and infinite value of the human person and the duty of service to our fellow human beings. While the details of our practise may vary, even within our respective groups, we recognise in each other these familiar aspects of our lives. This is of no small importance, and nor is this list complete.

Our understanding of our common humanity is derived from our faith in the One God. Our traditions witness. Our tradition witness the belief that we are created in the image and likeness of God, and the God has invested in each human being infinite worth and inalienable dignity. In our respective traditions, after our faith that God is One, next in importance is our doctrine of the human person. Our traditions share the conviction that each person is capable of an intimate and eternal relationship with God, and that God has created human beings for fruitful, intimate, mutual community, even across our God-given diversity.

For this understanding of our common humanity, which is not first and foremost a political or biological reality, but a fundamental theological truth, derives our commitment to the further truth that we share a common home. In the first instance, the earth is our common home, but with respect to our discussion today we must emphasise that the Middle East is the common home to Jews, Christians, and Muslims, as well as to other religious traditions and communities. Needless to say, this means also that we share a common history and a common culture.

This understanding of the Middle East as our common home is of supreme importance. We are all without distinction – Jew, Christian and Muslim – children of this Holy Land, and without, for a example, a robust and vibrant Christian community in the Middle East, the region would lose its authentic identity. We Christians are not merely inhabitants of the Holy Land. In Jerusalem, for example, which is the spiritual heart, the intima, or place of belonging as it is called in Arabic, we have had a special place and role for millennia.

As the heirs of sacred history a physical heritage, our unwavering mission has been to ensure that the Holy Places are open to all people regardless their ethnic, cultural, religious, or national identity. We ardently promote inclusiveness, knowing full well that claims of exclusiveness always produce conflict, and do not do justice to our peace-loving and merciful God.

None of us are guests or intruders; our respective traditions were born in the Middle East, and we are natives of that land. As strange as it may be to have to be clear about this, there are still those who believe otherwise, and who resort to violence to attempt to make the Middle East a mono-cultural or mono-religious group. The Middle East has never been this.

And the last point that we wish to promote flows naturally from these considerations, for we share a common destiny. We share a common destiny with respect to the political, economic, cultural, and religious life of our region. But our Abrahamic traditions also attest that we share a common eternal destiny, a destiny in which Jerusalem, a city that is equally holy to us all, plays a significant spiritual and emotional role. Jerusalem is considered to be the spiritual capital of the whole world; the ceaseless flow of pilgrims who come on a daily basis is ample evidence of this.

As the Holy Land is home to us all, so too is Jerusalem. We many inhabit them, but in a real sense we can never possess them; rather they “possess” us they embrace us in this eternal destiny that demands that we find ways to live in peace, harmony, and mutual respect in this present life. This is what our reality demands of us. For the Lord makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous (Mat. 5:45).

When we stop to understand all that we share in common, we grow in respect for each other’s symbols, practises, and daily lives. We begin to perceive each other’s true humanity. In time, with patience and resolve, we begin to recognise ourselves in each other.

Here are the roots of true dialogue. In the Middle East, dialogue is a way of life. It is not a theory, but a practise. With such dialogue we know that, especially in times of grave difficulty, enemies can become allies, and hatred can be turned into reconciliation.

In this regard, we call to mind one of the most significant events in our shared history; the famous covenant between the caliph Omar ibn Al-Khattab and Patriarch Sophronios, after Oman entered Jerusalem. The soil was fertile for e transformative and fruitful peace. They envisioned a future in which everyone could share in the sacredness and richness of the Holy Land, recognising a common father in Abraham. They were able to stand firm in the integrity of their respective identities and histories, thereby eschewing fear and embracing truth.

There are two approaches to knowing truth and seeing justice; the divine way, which is the ideal; and the human way, which is circumscribed by our shortcomings. Our approach is a pragmatic one, by which common sense and observable reality show the way. For as the Scriptures say, Truth shall spring our of the earth; and righteousness shall look down from heaven (Ps. 85:11).

This is the appropriate climate in which both the activity and the fruits of peace-building will ripe. We know this, because we have seen it before. We are always inspired, first by the prophets and revered personalities of our respective traditions, but also by the great leaders of the world now memorialised by all humanity. From their struggles and sometimes untimely deaths have sprung forth courage, peace, and progress, and they have inspired countless ordinary men and women, who in their local communities, where there has been violence and enmity, have been prepared to take risks for a new future – a new future of reconciliation.

The reconciliation of which we speak does not mean depriving each other of our national, cultural, or religious identities. We readily admit that reconciliation demands sacrifice, but it does not demand the loss of our uniqueness. This is the path to realistic, mutually respectful co-existence, which is a far more enduring life than mere tolerance.”

From Secretariat-General

httpv://youtu.be/FasBUaBkfck

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THE VISIT OF THE PATRIARCH OF JERUSALEM TO CAPPADOCIA (PART 2)

During the Divine Liturgy on Sunday 5th/18th 2017 in Sinassos of Cappadocia, the All-Holy Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomeos spoke to the congregation. On His address, the Ecumenical Patriarch referred to the quite excellent cooperation of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the contribution of the Jerusalem Patriarchate as well as the contribution of His Beatitude the Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos towards the convocation of the Great Synod of Orthodoxy.

During this Divine Liturgy there was a memorial service for the repose of the souls of those of our Fathers who martyred and slept in the Lord in reverence.

Moreover, the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomeos appointed Professor of Law at the Aristotelion University and Consultant of Jerusalem Patriarchate Mr. Theodoros Giagkos an officion bearer Lord, in recognition of his devoted ministry to the Church, to Science, the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the Great Synod of Orthodoxy.

For this honourary distinction, Professor Mr. Giagkos thanked with the following address (to be posted in due course).

On the occasion of this 17th visit to Cappadocia, addresses to His All-Holiness were given by the following people:

  1. A Greek Houses of Parliament representative.
  2. Maximos Charakopoulos, New Democracy Political Party representative.
  3. The Secretary-General of the Pan-Hellenic Union of Cappadocian organizations.

At noon, the businessman Mr. Gregory Chatzi-Eleftheriadis offered a meal at the refurbished Mansion of his Cappadocian ancestors.

During this meal, the owner and renovator of his ancestors’ Manor, Mr. Gregory Chatzi- Eleftheriadis gave His Beatitude a copy of a Sigillum Letter of the memorable Patriarch of Constantinople Gregory V, which reminds things related to the operation and the general as well as the financial management of the School of Sinassos, and appoints the memorable Patriarch of Jerusalem Polykarpos to be Protector and Curator of the School, and it gives him as well as to all his successors the Patriarchs of Jerusalem, special managerial privileges and a donation to the Sacred Congregation of the Holy Sepulchre.

The Patriarchal letter translated from the Greek prototype is the following:

“Gregory, by the mercy of God Archbishop of Constantinople,

New Rome and Ecumenical Patriarch 

The joyous and philanthropic spirit of the Church, which is as ready as it is needed to act upon every other reasonable and righteous situation, much more then is inclined to act toward the addressed petitions for the establishment of Schools and common interests, from which, the living waters of God-given education spring forth as from abundant fountains, and dispel the completely dry ignorance of the human minds on existing beings, irrigate the souls of the faithful, and blossom and bring forth fruit on the realization of righteous and worthy-to-be-mentioned truths about the Holy men of God and the people.

Toward these, therefore, the common affectionate Mother is more prominently well-disposed and available, praising on the one hand those who have accomplished feats, while on the other hand ratifying and strengthening their God-pleasing education through Sigillum Letters (Official Ecclesiastical letter with a seal), as is the case for the present issue.

Hence the people in the Caesarea of Cappadocia County, in one of its villages called Sinassos in Turkish, (the famous Nanzianzos town of old), having recovered at last the much praised usefulness of education, and being willing to introduce it to their own country for the enlightenment of their own children and the remaining inhabitants, established a common School of the Greek subjects. Moreover they gathered by a fundraising event among themselves, fifteen thousand piasters, the majority of which, namely ten thousand piasters, were allocated to this newly-founded School by the generosity of the friend of the nation, of education and goodness of Mr. Ioannis Varvakis, who also offered abundant sponsorships to other benevolent institutions, while the four thousand piasters with the two houses located in that parish of the Great Archangels are offerings and contributions of the Christians who abide therein, and of those who work at the fifteen Caviar workshops in Galata, while one thousand piasters were offered by the noble procurators of the chapel of the Dormition of our Lady the Most-Holy Theotokos, of which ten thousand piasters were deposited to the common repository of the Holy Sepulchre, plus the interest of forty to the pouch per annum, according to the will and provision of the donator who loves our nation, while five thousand (have been offered) from the aforementioned workshops in Galata, with interest of sixty to the pouch per annum; these have been submitted of course, and given to the School in signed and witnessed debentures of the same amounts.

Consequently, under their common opinion and fervent entreating, it has been appointed that Protector of the School and general Curator herein is His Beatitude and All-Holy Patriarch of Jerusalem and all Palestine Polykarpos, who is a supplicant to God and quite dear to us and a beloved brother and co-celebrant, as he has displayed an enthusiastic zeal for things of common interest and God-pleasing regarding education. Curators in various districts and Administrators will be the eight Elders of this country at a time, who have the permission to elect and designate also four Trustees at the School, two of whom will be at that place there, and two here in the reigning city, in order to administer and settle the finances of the School, under the dependence and constant guidance of the Trustees, and receive its main and occasional income and give a clear and detailed account to the Curators every year on 1st May, while those who receive the account and sign, have to send it here and submit it under the elaboration and confirmation of the fervent Protector and Curator of His Most Reverend Beatitude. A container has also been fabricated at the School, with two disparate keys, and they have to keep the debentures and the other documents of the School in the container, and especially those related to money that comes from occasional income (donations).

Moreover, they have to ordain two Trustees out of their compatriots for the safe, who if approved and zealous could prolong their duty up to five years, and they have to keep the two keys, one each, and for All of them should make two codes; one of which should be sent to the Curators, while the other should remain here, and in the codes they have to record in detailed writing the transactions and all the existing belongings of the School and those which are donated by friends of education, whether they are books or any other kind of donations. Having done these, and having announced them by their common reference to our Great Church of Christ, the People in charge warmly requested to confirm them by our Patriarchal and Synodical Sigillum Letter on vellum, in order that they remain irreversible and unaltered, for the sustaining of their God-pleasing achievement and the long lasting duration of their beneficial action toward the country.

Therefore, having consented quite favourably to their petition and having blessed their intention for the public benefit, and also having crowned them with our Fatherly and Synodical approvals, and especially that par excellence brave man of similar thoughts to ours Mr. Ioannis Varvakis, we decide in Synod together with the Most-Holy Archbishops with us and our Most Honourable brothers and co-celebrants in the Holy Spirit, so that what has been ordered and designated for the newly established School of the Greek subjects by the aforementioned friends of education, noble pious indigenous men in their country Nanzianzos and Sinassos in Turkish, be reasonable and justifiable, pleasing to God and praised by the people, and sustaining of the smooth operation of this condition, having the validity and the strength and the energy unchangeable “as long as the water flows and waters the big trees,” namely for the ages to come. 

And the ten thousand of piasters on the one hand, which have been deposited at the common repository of the Holy Sepulchre and offered by the friend of our nation for the School,  are to be kept as capital savings, worked toward forty piasters to the pouch per annum, likewise, capital savings remain the five thousand piasters, which have been offered by the Christians living there, in the manner that has been said they were offered, gained by the work in the fifteen Caviar workshops here in Galata, toward sixty piasters to the pouch per annum, on the other hand, the two houses in the parish of the Archangels shall always be witnessed and recognized by all as offerings to the School, which is ready to accommodate not only local lovers of education but also students who love to study from the surrounding areas, and in it, all Greek education is being taught, and every kind of subject that contributes to the perfection of mind, and its Protector and Curator is His Beatitude and All-Holy Patriarch of Jerusalem, our profound colleague Polykarpos, and his successors after him of the All-Holy Patriarchal and Apostolic Throne. Administrators will be the eight Elders, at that time, of this country, and Trustees four men elected by them, two of whom in that place, and the other two here in the reigning city, administering the transactions of the School, receiving the main and occasional income, being assistants to the Curators, and acting according to their final instructions, offering on 1st May of each year a clear and concise account to the Curators there, so that when sent for, he will receive the confirmation from the fervent Protector and general Curator. And all its documents will be kept securely in the container which has been established in the name of the School, and the debentures, and the money and the two keys will be entrusted to the two local people therein, and they will be especially Trustees of the safe, elected by the other Curators and the Protector, for five years, on whom the management of the School finances is appointed, and also the two codes will be secured, one code to the Curators and the Trustees, and the other one at the place  therein, and let the transactions  and the land belonging to the School be recorded in it, together with any other material belongings, for a permanent record. And let any miscegenation of common and political issues be remote from the School, having none whatsoever permission on behalf of those who govern the common issues of this country to gather an assembly and assemble for the observation and management of common issues which however are foreign to the School. On all these, there should always be elected and designated teachers, by the special providence of the Protector at the time, and the care of the Curators, men capable in both words and manner of living, unenviable, so that verbatim and in good method they promote fast learning and good morals to the students, with the concurring of all the appointed Curators of the School, competing toward the improvement and increase and any possible cultivation of things favourable to it, in order to bear brave and God-pleasing fruit, for the common benefit of the nation and the continuous glory of the country.

These have been decided and confirmed in Synod, and for those who have contributed and assembled in its establishment and for those who will later on be favourably disposed toward it, and will keep without fail all the aforementioned, we wish salvation from the depths of our heart. If however somebody by malice displays spitefulness and abruptness, so that he will surreptitiously or obviously, directly or indirectly attempt to act against it and against its smooth operation, and in any way provokes the slightest damage against it, even if he considers to change the slightest letter to what has been decided in this present synod, this man, as an enemy of the good and God-pleasing works and arrogant and peculiar and barbaric and malicious, from whichever social status, let him give an account to the unbridable Judge and God on the horrendous Day of Judgment , and may he be dishonoured and bereft of glory throughout his life, and guilty and accountable for every Ecclesiastical punishment and tribulation.

Hence, the present Sigillum letter on vellum of ours has been composed as a token and continuous security, composed moreover in the sacred code of our Great Church of Christ, it has been delivered to the newly established School of the Greek subjects, located in the country of Sinassos in the county of Caesarea.

In the year of salvation eighteen twenty one, on ninth January.

Gregory, by the mercy of God Archbishop of Constantinople New Rome and Ecumenical Patriarch”

 

Ioannikios of Caesarea                             Germanos of Ephesus

Meletios of Herakleia                                 Constantine of Kyzikos

Athanasios of Nicomedia                           Makarios of Nice

Gregory of Chalcedon                                 Ioannikios of Tyrnovo

Dorotheos of Andrianopolis                       Joseph of Thessalonica

Kallinikos of Drysta and Vraela                Kallinikos of Sifnos

Gregory of Derka                                         Meletios of Veroia

Damascene of Farsala                                Illegible name

Illegible name

 

Consequently in the afternoon, there was a visit to the carved inside an eroded rock monastery of Saint Nikolaos, which does not give the slightest trace that it is hidden therein. The monastery has been recently sustained by the intervention and funding of Patriarch Bartholomeos. Afterwards, a visit was paid to the underground chapel of St. Nikolaos, St. Barbara and St. Makrina. 

The 3rd and last day of the visit of His Beatitude the Patriarch of Jerusalem to Cappadocia.

On Monday, 6th/19th June 2017, the pilgrimage tour and visit of His Beatitude the Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos continued to the deserted during the exchange of populations after the Asia Minor destruction in 1922 Churches and Monasteries of Romiosyne in Cappadocia.

At the guidance of the Ecumenical Patriarch, who has completed His 17th pilgrimage to the sanctified places of Cappadocia this year, who also knows and protects them, the invited group of the representatives of the Churches visited the Church of the Entrance of the Theotokos in the massive but deserted town of Kermira.

Having completed the aforementioned visits, H.H.B. with His entourage and the honourary entourage of the All-Holy Ecumenical Patriarch departed to Constantinople by plane, and from there to Tel Aviv, where the arrival landed at 2.30 a.m. on Tuesday 7th/20th June 2017,  with their glorifying God.

From Secretariat-General

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H.H.B. THE PATRIARCH OF JERUSALEM THEOPHILOS AT THE ECCLESIASTICAL MISSION OF THE RUSSIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH IN JERUSALEM

5 June 2017

Your Eminences,

Your Graces,

Dear Fathers,

Beloved Monastics,

Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

As we gather to celebrate the great and holy Feast of Pentecost, we recall the words of the hymnographer, who reminds us of the fundamental theological truths of this celebration:

Of old the tongues were confounded

because of the audacity of building the tower,

but now the tongues are made wise

for the sake of Divine Knowledge…

now the concord of tongues hath been inaugurated

for the salvation of our souls.

(Plagal of the Fourth Tone)

We are reminded that this Feast of Pentecost is a declaration of the fundamental unity of our ecumenical, pan-Orthodox Church, which has been revealed to us on this Feast in this Holy City. This truth has been guarded and nourished by the Church of Jerusalem, the Mother of the Churches, from the very beginning.

This same unity continues to be made manifest among us, most recently in the Holy and Great Council of the Church in Crete. It was in consonance with the meaning of Pentecost that the Holy and Great Council was opened after the Divine Liturgy on the Feast of Pentecost last year, further embodying the true nature of the Church.

The unity of the Church is a gift of the Holy Spirit, and we are called to cherish and deepen this unity. To fracture this unity is a most grievous matter, and on this occasion we take this opportunity to condemn in the strongest possible terms those who are acting against the parishes of the canonical Orthodox Church of the Ukraine. The Holy Fathers remind us with reason that such fracturing of the unity of the Church in schism is the most serious of sins.

For “Christ hath enlightened the fishermen by the Spirit”, but “condemned the impious because of their offence”. May the Holy Spirit, who descended upon the disciples on this Feast, enlighten our minds and our hearts, and give us the will to guard the precious gift of the unity of the Church that has been entrusted to us by Divine Providence.

Thank you.




MESSAGE OF H.H.BEATITUDE FOR THE FEAST OF PASCHA 2017

THEOPHILOS III

By the Mercy of God Patriarch of the Holy City of Jerusalem

and all Palestine

to all members of the Church, grace and mercy and peace

from the All-Holy and Life-Giving Sepulchre

of the Resurrected Christ.

 

“Christ is risen from the dead,

The fristfruits of those that sleep:

The firstborn of all creation

And maker of all created things!”

(Stichoiron of Paschal Praises tone 3)

 

It was deep dawn on that day, the first of the Sabbaths, the first of the Week, after the crucifixion and the burial of Lord Jesus. The women surrounding Mariam, who had escorted Christ from Galilee and had become witnesses to His Cross and burial, ran in haste on that dawn, wondering to themselves who would remove the big stone at the entrance of the tomb, so that they would be able to anoint the body of the crucified and buried Lord Jesus Christ with myrrh, according to the custom of the Jews.

However, having reached the tomb, they became witnesses of a dazzling and marvelous sight. They found the stone rolled away, while a couple of lively angels said to them “why seek ye the living among the dead? He is not here but is risen” (Luke 24:6). “Behold the place where they laid him” (Mark 16:6).

This was the gospel, the good news, of the accomplished work of God for the liberty, redemption, rebirth, regeneration, resurrection and salvation of man. The Only-Begotten Son and Word of God, having received flesh from the Holy Spirit and the Ever-Virgin Mary and willingly placed this flesh upon the cross, he died as human on the cross and was buried as mortal, to be risen from the dead on the third day by the power of His Father and His own Divine power. Death did not have power over Him, he was not able to keep Him. The God-man Jesus Christ trampled down death by death. He shattered the bonds of Hades, pulverized the seals of the tomb and left it empty but with the linen clothes to witness His resurrection.

Not only this, but the Lord who was risen from the dead confirmed the angelic vision and announcement soon afterwards, by His own resurrected presence. He appeared in His immaculate body, which was crucified, pierced with nails, brightened and deified, in many appearances He made after His resurrection. He met the myrrh-bearing women in the garden outside the tomb saying to them “All hail” (Mat. 28:9). He appeared to His disciples when they were assembled in the Upper room, when the doors were shut in the evening of that day, the first of the Sabbaths, and again after eight days when Thomas was with them (John 20:19-29). He walked alongside with Luke and Cleopas towards Emmaus, where He blessed the bread and gave it to them (Luke 24:30). He stood amidst His disciples, talking to them, and while he could not be touched he encouraged them to touch Him and make sure that being Incarnate, He had “flesh and bones” and asked them and was given to eat “a piece of a broiled fish and of a honeycomb” (Luke 24:36-44). “To whom he shewed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs” (Acts 1:3). On the fortieth day after His resurrection, while His disciples were watching, He ascended in Heaven and sat at the right hand side of His Father, with the Incarnate nature He received from us and deified it.

From Heaven, He sent to us through the Father another Comforter, the Spirit of Truth, His Holy Spirit, which enlightened His Holy disciples and apostles and founded the Church, His Holy Body. He founded and foreordained it to continue His sanctifying and salvific mission on earth; to be the manifestation of His forthcoming Kingdom to the world; to preach His Gospel all over the world; to offer remission of sins by the power it received by Him; to preach the knowledge of Him to the ignorant world; that He is the way and the truth and the life; to preach the hope of the resurrection to the desolate people; to lighten the burden of the people bringing them to Himself, who said “Come to me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Mat. 11:28); to exercise works of charity to the poor, refugees, shipwrecked and homeless, taking as an example its Founder, Who is the source of all goodness and philanthropy. By the power of His words “take, eat and drink of it all” and in the invocation of the Holy Spirit to transmit His immaculate Body and His sacred Blood for the remission of sins and life everlasting. To contrast the fury of war violence and the illogical novel terrorist destructive atrocity to His word of sacrificial love and reconciliation, “Father, forgive them” (Luke 23:34) and “I say unto you, love your enemies, and bless them that curse you” (Mat. 5:44).

The Church of Jerusalem, Holy Zion, which has been granted by its Founder His ministry and redemptive mission to the places where He appeared in flesh, and especially in His Life-giving Sepulchre, of which the Sacred Edicule was recently renovated, wishes to its Christian congregation all over the world, and to the noble pilgrims who honour it, patience to the end and fruition in patience, the strength and the hope of resurrection as an antidote to the adversities and sorrows, the true peace of the Resurrected Jesus Christ, health and prosperity and a joyful resurrection paschal season, exclaiming in unspeakable joy “Christ is Risen!”

Holy City of Jerusalem PASCHA 2017

With Fatherly wishes and Patriarchal blessings

Fervent supplicant for all before God

THEOPHILOS III

Patriarch of Jerusalem