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H.B. PATRIARCH THEOPHILOS’ ΙΙΙ SPEECH AT THE MIDDLE EAST COUNCIL OF CHURCHES SESSION HELD IN CYPRUS.

Your Beatitude,

Your Eminences,

Dear Friends,

 

We give thanks to Almighty God for the opportunity to meet in this Executive Committee of the Middle East Council of Churches.

The purpose of our meeting here in Cyprus is to discuss further the process of re-organization of the MECC especially given the current political developments that our region is witnessing. It is obvious that our joint Christian voice is now more necessary than ever before. Therefore, it is time seriously and responsibly to consider our mission as church leaders, as we uphold the interests of our Churches and faithful. In addition to this we must be ready to respond to the calls that are made to us by our respective political leaderships.

We take this opportunity to re-iterate once again our commitments to this Council, a commitment, a commitment that we have already displayed in practice.

The Orthodox family has demonstrated our steadfastedness in maintaining in maintaining the fellowship to which this Council aspires. In support of this the Church of Cyprus, under the wise leadership of His Beatitude Archbishop Chrysostomos, has taken the initiative to place the meetings of the MECC on a firm administrative and financial basis in Cyprus.

And so, We appeal to all our member Churches to overcome any misunderstanding that may exist and to reach a consensus by which we can accomplish the fundamental principles of the institution of the Council.

We would like to express our gratitude especially to Our beloved brother Archbishop Chrysostomos for his gracious and generous hospitality. And we would like to thank all of you who have responded positively to the invitation to gather here for this decisive action in leading the MECC in fulfilling our common expectations.

 

Thank you, and May God bless you.




MEMBERS OF THE PARLIAMENT OF UKRAINE VISIT THE PATRIARCHATE.

On Monday, 25th of January/ 7th of February 2011, a team of 25 People’s Deputies of the Parliament of Ukraine, under the auspices of entrepreneur Mr. Feldmann, visited the Patriarchate.  They were received by His Beatitude Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos III Who cited the religious, cultural and conciliatory mission which was brought into fruition by the Patriarchate centuries ago and is especially important today in the midst of this tense and unstable political situation within our region. His Beatitude said that the People’s Deputies also partake in this work of the Patriarchate, today, through their visit as Orthodox Christians and as representatives of the Parliament of the Ukraine.

Mr. Feldmann, in thanking His Beatitude for the reception given to the visitors and for His speeches regarding the work and mission of the Patriarchate, offered Him a national symbol of Ukraine.

His Beatitude praised Mr. Feldmann for his humanitarian work and presented him and his escort with a large silver seven-branched candelabrum – a Menorah, with an explanation of the symbolism for Jews and Christians.  He also gave them a medal representing 2000 years of existence of the Orthodox Patriarchate, the book by Professor Votokopoulos about the illustrated manuscripts of the Patriarchical Library and the book by Professor Demitrakopoulos about the place of Baptism of the Lord.

The visit to the Patriarchate was followed by a visit and veneration at the Holy Sepulchre.

Chief Secretary’s Office.




H.B. PATRIARCH THEOPHILOS’ ΙΙΙ ADDRESS IN THE OCCASION OF THE “WORLD INTERFAITH HARMONY WEEK”.

02 February 2011,

Your Royal Highness, Prince Ghazi Bin Mohammad Bin Talal

Honourable and Distinguished Guest,

It is a great honour for us, the Council of Churches in Jordan, to be amongst you today in this holy site celebrating the “World Interfaith Harmony Week”. We affirm our deep appreciation for the efforts of His Majesty King Abdullah the Second to this great initiative.   We hold dearly His Majesty’s and the Hashemite Kingdom’s continued heritage and commitment to freedom of worship and for progressing the bridging and understanding between faiths.

Furthermore, we are obliged to Your Royal Highness for this gracious hospitality and of course, for Your Highness’s relentless efforts in promoting, both locally and internationally, this prudent initiative of His Majesty as well as its foundation and base represented in the “Common Word”.

There is no doubt that our common humanity is today confronted with harsh forces of injustice, disrespect and even humiliation. This is all taking place under the cover of political and religious umbrellas and in the name of All-mighty God.

We are experiencing fast growing political polarisation resulting in religious polarisation. Violence, aggression, hatred and bigotry, which produce unrest and insecurity, have taken the place of peace and justice, which produce security and prosperity.

Nevertheless, we believe that conflict, prejudice, hatred and injustice can be turned into peace, mutual respect, love and righteousness; for the Holy Scriptures commands us to: “turn away evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it” (Ps. 34).

The Middle East region has historically and religiously been declared a meeting place and a host of the three monotheistic religions; that is Judaism, Christianity and Islam. This is due to the fact, that the Middle East is inextricably associated with the sacred history of these faiths.

The Council of Churches in Jordan recall and evoke that Christians constitute an essential element in the composition of the social fabric and continue to contribute effectively to various walks of life in our communities.

This fact stems from a two thousand year old heritage in which we have played key roles in the civil, cultural and political realities of the Holy Land.

This legacy was built on mutual understandings, respect and tolerance between the Church and its surroundings, especially Islam.  The culmination of such understanding has been shaped and formed by “al-Ohda al-Omariya” between the two great ethno-religious leaders: Khalipha “Omar bin al-Khattab” and Our predecessor Patriarch of Jerusalem Sophronius. This almost 1400 year-old agreement is still respected until today.  What is the essence of this covenant that continues to resonate its impact in our contemporary reality? It is precisely the spirit of this covenant which allowed enough room to overcome and diffuse areas of human predicament and thus allowing for harmony between Christians and Muslims to flourish as well as heal historic turbulences and political unrest.

We believe it is time for the Spirit of “The Covenant of Omar” to extend its boarders and manifest itself in our modern and present times. Hence, comes His Majesty’s initiative of the “World Interfaith Harmony Week” which was adopted unanimously by the United Nations General Assembly back in October of 2010. We consider these honourable values, articulated by His Majesty, as extensions of “al-Ohdah al-Omariyeh” and they constitute an outcome of the direct link between the Khalifa “Omar bin al-Khattab” and Jordan’s King Abdullah Bin Al-Hussein.

Let us take advantage of all such gatherings, to encourage those who strive for peace to come and join forces with us, in order to promote peace and justice in our region and beyond, for the sake and benefit of the generations to come; for: “blessed are the peace-makers” (Matth. 5, 9).

We would like to jointly applaud the efforts of the Jordanian Interfaith Coexistence Research Centre, directed by the Reverend Father Nabil Haddad and all the many volunteers that contributed to this event’s noted success.

Thank you.

His Beatitude THEOPHILOS III

Patriarch of Jerusalem




HIS BEATITUDE ADDRESS IN THE OCCASION OF GREEK ORTHODOX PATRIARCHATE’S VISIT TO THE ARMENIAN PATRIARCHATE.

“Turn away from evil and do good, seek peace and pursue it”, says the Psalmist (Ps. 33/34, 14).

“Your Beatitude, Your Eminence,

Reverend Brothers of the Saint James Brotherhood,

We are here today in order to congratulate Your Beatitude, Your Eminence and the Brotherhood on the blessed occasion of the Christmas and especially the Epiphany Holy days.

We as Christian monastic orders and fraternities of the Holy Land have committed ourselves to the guardianship and service of the Holy places both in Jerusalem, Bethlehem and elsewhere.

These Holy places, which are associated with our faith in the mystery of the divine oeconomia of the Incarnate, Crucified and Risen Lord Jesus Christ, bear witness to God the Father, who is the “God of peace”, (Lom. 15:33) For according to Saint Paul “Christ’s death has accomplished peace between God and humanity, (Rom. 5:1), and peace between Jew and Gentile”, (Eph 2:14,17).

This is why Saint Paul frequently exhorts us to be at peace with one another (Rom. 14:19).

We take this opportunity to once again confirm our good intentions of seeking peace, pursuing reconciliation and living peaceably with all.

Thank you.

Blessed, prosperous and peaceful the New Year!”.




HIS BEATITUDE SPEECH TO THE MAYOR AND THE MUNICIPAL GOVERNMENT OF JERUSALEM.

Jerusalem, 26 January 2011.

Your Excellency, Mr Barkat, Mayor of Jerusalem,

Honorable Members of the Municipal Government,

Distinguished Guest,

“ Like birds hovering overhead, the LORD Almighty will shield Jerusalem; he will shield it and deliver it, he will ‘pass over’ it and will rescue it.” (Isaiah 31:5)   We thank Your Excellency for this cordial invitation as we gather here by the grace of God; with all the love and commitment for the Holy City of Jerusalem.

It is an honor and a privilege to join this distinguished gathering and to convey our best wishes to all on the occasion of the New Year.

We take this opportunity to re-assure our commitment to our mission, which throughout the ages has been to first uphold Holy Places and Shrines as places of worship accessible to all the faithful, regardless of denomination and diversity; keeping the flocking of pilgrims and visitors. This in turn had tremendous impact, not only, on bringing people together and diffusing tensions, but also on economic standards by alleviating the standard of living for our local respective communities.

Our city, which is a holy shrine in itself, is equally dear and sacred to us all: Jews, Christians and Muslims; for it epitomizes the sacred history of the Holy Land. Jerusalem is the main factor for the enchantment it raises among the people of the world. But the city is also greatly valued for its multi-cultural and ethno-religious diversity. These attributes which synthesize the identity of Jerusalem must drive us to effect the conclusion that more effort should be exerted to join our forces for turning this Holy City into a physical and spiritual bridge for peace and reconciliation.

Here the believers of the three faiths worship at their Holy Places every day. Here, at all times of the day and night, people come to pray at their shrines. Of nowhere else can it be said with such confidence that there is unceasing prayer. Here we strive with all our energy to affirm that there is room for all in Jerusalem.

Let us be reminded that this City is not an earthly reality alone, but a reflection of the heavenly Jerusalem that has enough space to accommodate all of her children with love and forgiveness;  for we all are answerable to the Almighty, who in the words of the Prophet:

“… shall rejoice over you… For there shall be no one like you, O Jerusalem…” (Isaiah 62:4-7)

Thank you for this opportunity of addressing you and this gathering. We pray every day for the peace of Jerusalem, and we pray for God’s special blessing on this Holy City. May all who love her prosper.

We wish you all a very blessed and peaceful New Year.

His Beatitude

Theophilos III

Patriarch of Jerusalem.




WORDS OF GREETING TO THE DELEGATION FROM THE ARMENIAN PATRIARCHATE OF JERUSALEM.

25 January 2011

Your Eminences,

Your Graces,

Dear Fathers,

In this joyful season of Christmas and Epiphany, we greet you in the name of the Lord, Jesus Christ. At this time, we celebrate especially the love of God, the peace of God, the justice of God and the reconciliation of God for humanity. As members of the Brotherhood of the Holy Sepulcher and the Brotherhood of Saint James, having oversight of our respective communities and the Holy Places, we bear witness not only to the message of Christ, but also to the role that Jerusalem plays as a model of respectful co-existence and harmonious living between different ethnic and religious groups.

As a consequence, more than ever before, no matter the size of our respective communities, our life and ministry as Churches and as guardians of the Holy Places are of crucial importance for our respective Churches and peoples to show forth the universal significance of Jerusalem.

We denounce every form of discord, and we must all work to be examples of peace, non-violence, reconciliation and true symbiosis.

As Saint Ignatios of Antioch says in his Letter to the Ephesians, “there is nothing better than peace, in which all strife of things is heaven and things on earth is abolished”. (13:2).

To prefer peace over violence it does not imply giving up legitimate rights and privileges.

I take this opportunity to express our appreciation to the Old City police Commander Mr. Aviroif for his efforts to keep order and peace both for the city and the Holy Sepulcher.

May this blessed season see a new commitment to this peace, which is the joy of God and the will of God for the World.

Happy and Blessed New Year.

His Beatitude

Theophilos III

Patriarch of Jerusalem




RUSSIAN SPEAKING ORTHODOX BELEIVERS FROM BE’ER SHEVA VISIT THE PATRIARCHATE.

On Saturday, 2nd / 15th of January 2011, a team comprising of fifty Russian speaking Orthodox believers from the city of Be’er Sheva in Israel, visited His Beatitude Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos III.  They are among those who immigrated to various towns and villages of Israel after the collapse of the Soviet Union. His Eminence Theophylaktos Archbishop of Jordan and Rev. Archimandrite Fr. Aristovoulos have assumed the pastoral responsibility of these believers alongside His Beatitude Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos III and the Holy and Sacred Synod.

The aforementioned Russian speakers from Be’er Sheva attended a liturgy in the morning officiated by the Archimandrite Father Aristovoulos in the Holy Church of Saint Nicolas of the Patriarchate in the Old City of Jerusalem.  After the Holy Liturgy they visited His Beatitude, Who blessed them and wished them health and strength for the New Year. He assured them that the Patriarchate cares for them pastorally and that it is striving for the construction of a Holy Church for them at their city of domicile, Be’er Sheva.  His Beatitude then bestowed Jerusalemite benedictions upon them.

Chief Secretary’s Office.

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THE DEPUTY MINISTER OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS OF GREECE MR. DEMITRIOS DOLLIS VISITS THE PATRIARCHATE.

On Wednesday the 6th / 19th of January 2011,  the day of the Epiphany, after the ceremony of Sanctifying the water at the Church of Resurrection, the Catholicon of the Church was  Sanctified. The Holy Liturgy then took place at the Holy Sepulchre following a reception for the pilgrims who congregated at the Patriarchate of Jerusalem. At the Hall of the Throne His Beatitude Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos III received Mr. Demitrios Dollis who, in his capacity as the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Greece, was on an official visit to the State of Israel. Mr. Dollis was accompanied by the Secretary General of his Ministry, Mrs. Niki Kamva,  the Consul General of Greece in Jerusalem, Mr. Sotirios Athanassiou and his assistant, the Consul Mrs. Aspasia Mitsi.

Within the framework of this visit, the Deputy Minister said to His Beatitude: «It is with much respect and deep emotion that I make this first official visit to the Patriarchate of Jerusalem following the one at the Ecumenical Patriarchate.  I consider it my duty to visit the Patriarchate and also to convey the wishes of the Prime Minister of Greece Mr. George Papandreou before the start of my appointments tomorrow in the State of Israel».

His Beatitude replied to the Deputy Minister: «Your visit has great significance for the Patriarchate because it is not ceremonial or formal but indicative of your interest in the different religions and the Church.  This fits also with the fact that yesterday, along with other leaders of the Christian Churches you were a guest of the British Consul in Jerusalem, Sir Vincent Fean, at a dinner in honour of Mr. Alistair Burt, who demonstrated lively interest in religious matters and concerns for the Christians in the Middle East».

The Minister then said: «The language, the civilization and our creed are the three elements that have always united us.  I say this having served in Australia for thirty years and having negotiated the exit of the Palestinians from the Church of Nativity in Bethlehem some years back».

«For this action and your benevolent attitude Mr. Deputy Minister,» said His Beatitude, «We have decided to honour You with the Medal of the Higher Taxiarch of the Holy Sepulchre and to give a gold cross to Your assistant, Mrs. Niki Kamva, who has previously served with dedication at the Consulate General (of Greece) in Jerusalem.».

Visibly moved and showing his gratitude, Mr. Dollis presented His Beatitude with an ornate encolpion.

After the event at the Patriarchate, His Beatitude Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos III, accompanied by Fathers, members of the Brotherhood of the Holy Sepulchre, hosted a meal in honour of the Deputy Minister and His escort at the American Colony Hotel in Jerusalem.

Chief Secretary’s Office.

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INTERVIEW WITH HIS BEATITUDE PUBLISHED ΙΝ THE NEWSPAPER «ELEFTHEROS TYPOS».

Excerpts of the interview with His Beatitude Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos III by Valia Nikolaidou for the newspaper «Eleftheros Typos» («Free Press»), December 2010

–Your Beatitude, almost five years have passed since your election to the patriarchal throne.  Which do You consider is Your most important work [deed]?

« Normality in the functioning of the Patriarchate of Jerusalem has returned.  Subsequently, the authority and prestige of the Patriarchate has been restored and now the Patriarchate plays a most important role not only in religious practices but also, mainly, in political processes because it is inseparably connected to the status of Jerusalem.

The Patriarchate plays an important role in the abatement of religious fanaticism, contributing the most through its active involvement in various inter-religious dialogues.

Proof of that is the participation of the Patriarchate of Jerusalem in the Council of Religious Institutions of the Holy Land which was created with the initiative of the State Department and is composed of Rabbis, the Jewish religious leadership of Israel, who represent the government, the religious leadership of the Palestinian Authority and the Leaders of the various Churches».

–Did You encounter any difficulties during that time period and, if yes, what were those?

«We definitely encountered difficulties which resulted from past mistakes, but, with God’s help, we managed to overcome them and to correct them. »

–In the past, the Patriarchate of Jerusalem faced financial problems.  Have those problems been surmounted?

« For many and various reasons, the Patriarchate had not fulfilled its obligations regarding many abeyances and large debts.  Since then, with God’s help, many gaps have been filled.

Financial matters are problems that have always required our attention and still continue to engage us, but I want to believe that we are on an upturn track. Today, everything operates with full transparency and with accountability.  Also, another problem is that the Patriarchate owns land and properties which are situated at strategic locations vis à vis the political aspect. You realize that the Patriarchate finds itself between two ‘Symblegades’ [clashing rocks]».

–How are the Patriarchate’s relations with the governments of Israel and Jordan and with the Palestinian Authority?

«With all the governments, especially with Israel and Jordan, our relations are excellent and I mean that.

Also, with the Palestinian Authority our relations are very good and continuously improving, even though sometimes misunderstandings arise between people who are known to have personal, financial or ideological interests».

–Your relations with the Ecumenical Patriarch?

«We are not talking about relations with The Ecumenical Patriarch, there exists full agreement of views in all matters».

–The Patriarchate went through a bad period due to the events that took place with the deposed Patriarch Ireneos.  What is going on with his case?

«We no longer concern ourselves with the case of Ireneos. »

–To what degree can the different religions contribute to the prevalence of peace in world societies?

«The religions play a determinative role.  The problem of international diplomacy and of the politicians as well, is that, they do not possess a thorough and deep knowledge of the subject of religion and consequently they have not taken into account the role that religion plays on an international scale. However, very cautiously, they have started to acknowledge that, wherever confrontations of a political (or other) nature take place, the reason is clearly religious.

They again try to emphasize the political aspect or the ethnic one; however, the root cause is religious.

I am speaking from experience.  Here, in our region, it is finally proven that the root of the political problem and of the confrontation is clearly religious, and for this reason, all the governments today, European and otherwise, contribute financially any kind of initiative that pertains to the inter-religious dialogue.

I receive daily delegations from Europe and America in the political, diplomatic, religious and ecclesiastical fields.  The purpose for which they come is to hear our points of view on the subject of the Middle East / Palestinian problem as well as our point of view regarding Jerusalem.

They have finally realized that diplomatic and political efforts do not bear fruit without the contribution of the religious leadership or, if you prefer, of the religion itself».

–As The Head of the Ζion Church, The Church of Nativity of Christ is under your spiritual jurisdiction.  What message would You like to convey to Christians from this holy place?

«That people should open their hearts and accept the message of peace and hopefulness which is Christ».

–What do You consider is the role of the Church today?

«The role of the Church is irreplaceable and this is proven by the fact that in countries where the Church (editor’s note: I refer to the Western Churches) has lost its spiritual mission and disposition, people find themselves in a state of confusion and disillusion and, as a result, they turn to religions which, instead of renewing them spiritually and supporting them, complicate their lives even more.

Regarding the Orthodox Church, it is proven that in countries where it predominates, people acknowledge its contribution and turn to it irrespective of the flaws, if any, of its leaders and its clerics.».

–Is the world crisis a crisis of values?

«It is a moral crisis because the economic issue is the beginning of everything.  The beginning of everything is the transcendence from the person of His self . . . »

–Because of the economic crisis most people feel disappointed, angry.  The feelings of young people who declare that they fear for their future are comparable.  What sort of message would You send to these people?

«I also see that people feel disappointed as I receive thousands of pilgrims from all over the world on a daily basis.  This feeling is intensely apparent in their faces.  Their fear and their despair are justifiable since they feel that they are betrayed by everyone.

The message of hope is exactly the message of intervention of God in history, which is Christmas.  It is the face of Christ, Who is never disillusioned and never lets believers become disillusioned.  Christ is the Light of knowledge; The sun of justice.  But it all depends on how much someone, young or old, is ready to make the transcendence of his/her self».

Excerpts of His Beatitude’s interview for the newspaper «Eleftheros Typos».

Chief Secretary’s Office.




H.B. ADDRESSES TO THE LEADERS OF CHURCHES ON OCCASION OF THE CELEBRATION OF CHRISTMAS.

“Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

The feast of Christmas is the Metropolis of all feasts, according to St. John Chrysostomos.

Indeed, Christmas is the Metropolis of all feasts. For, it is the feast of God’s philanthropy i.e. God’s love, peace, justice and reconciliation, for His own creation, Adam and Eve, who have been made after His image and likeness. This Christmas and festive gathering give us once again the opportunity to demonstrate our Christian mission here, in this land, where heavens meet with earth and where from the incarnate message of peace was spread all over the World.

We, I mean Christians, as a living witness of the unique and universal historical event that has shaped and formed our civilization. A civilization of absolute respect and dignity for the human being continue to bare witness, despite the many difficulties and obstacles that we are experiencing in our everyday life and activities.

Our Lord, Jesus Christ, who was born at the time of the Roman Emperor Augustus Caesar in the humble cave of Bethlehem, is always born to us, who worship Him and to those who are willing to receive the knowledge of the Incarnate Truth, the light of His peace and His justice.

Christmas, I repeat, is the feast of God’s love to us, the humans.

Our mission as Christians is precisely this: to loudly pronounce and practically tangibly communicate to our fellow human Christian message. For is God, the Father’s incarnate Love in the person of Jesus Christ, born from the pure blood of Virgin Mary of Nazareth, that has hypostatic existence and therefore prevails over all forms of dark and evil powers.

Christ is born, Blessed and Happy New Year”.

Jerusalem, 10-1-2011.

His Beatitude

THEOPHILOS III

Patriarch of Jerusalem

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