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A GROUP OF AFRICAN RELIGIOUS LEADERS AT THE PATRIARCHATE.

On Tuesday 21st of July / 3d of August 2010, a group of African Religious Leaders, Christian and Muslim, led by Rabbi Dr. David Rozen, visited the Patriarchate.  Coming from 6 African countries and numbering around 15 persons, they were received by His Beatitude Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos III.  They were invited by the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the American Jewish Committee as religious leaders of Muslim and Christian Communities in Africa, for the purpose of exploring possibilities for a more in depth dialogue and closer religious cooperation with the Middle East, all for the benefit of the peace process which currently remains at an impasse.

His Beatitude spoke to them about the existence and the work of the Patriarchate from the beginning of Christianity and of the Patriarchate’s relationship with Islam from 638 AD when the Patriarch of Jerusalem Sophronios surrendered Jerusalem to Omar Hatamb.

«The role of the Patriarchate», explained His Beatitude, «is to contribute to the pacification and the conciliation of people, amongst which the Patriarchate lives, moves and acts.  The political solution to the problem of Jerusalem requires the religious solution”

At the conclusion of the visit, His Beatitude presented them with the book by Mr. Votokopoulos on the illustrated manuscripts of the Library of the Patriarchate, a medal of the Patriarchate issued on the occasion of the two millennia of Christianity, and the photo-album of Mrs. Gali Tibbon on the Church of Resurrection and on the Orthodox ceremonies taking place therein as the navel of the Earth.

Chief Secretary’s Office.

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INTERVIEW OF HIS BEATITUDE PATRIARCH OF JERUSALEM THEOPHILOS III TO THE JERUSALEM POST.

The following article which includes the interview of His Beatitude was published by The Jerusalem Post Christian Edition in July 2010:

The ‘original’ Church

The Greek Orthodox Church: Patriarchate of Jerusalem

By Dov Preminger

Quietly navigating its way through 1,500 years of history, the Greek Orthodox Church in Jerusalem has had an unbroken presence in the Holy Land since the first centuries of Christendom. The Church considers itself to be the Mother Church of Christianity, and has preached the same doctrine since the time of Jesus.

The Orthodox Church claims its first bishop was James, brother of Jesus, and the Church counts among its holy places both the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. Today its distinctive black-robed monks honor these sites with the same liturgy and ritual as in ancient times, holding fast to their traditions through the Great Schism of 1054 AD, the Muslim occupation of Jerusalem, the Ottoman rule, and the Crusades.

More recently, the local Orthodox Church has faced challenges from the Israeli government, and dissent from its mostly Palestinian-Arab flock.

But the Church continues on, led by calm and humble Patriarch Theophilos III, who deals with modern crises the same way the Church always has. “With prayer, patience, wisdom, persistence, and firmness”.

ORIGINS

Interestingly, one might regard the members of the first Christian church as the original Protestants, since the Roman Catholic pope’s claim to universal jurisdiction was one of the prime causes of the Great Schism, which split the Church into Catholic and Orthodox denominations.

“Doctrinal teachings in many areas are common”, said Patriarch Theophilos III of the two churches. “The big difference between Roman Catholics and [Orthodox] Christianity is the office of a Pope who claims to be the Vicar of Christ on Earth”.

Daniel Rossing, Executive Director of the Jerusalem Center for Jewish-Christian relations, noted another difference is that the Catholic Church has a “pyramidal” hierarchy under the Pope, whereas the Orthodox Church’s authority derives from regional Patriarchates. The Patriarch of Constantinople is considered first among equals; he does not have authority over the rest.

The Orthodox religion is also different from Protestantism, despite the common absence of a papal authority “A very major difference in the Orthodox Church is that it’s very liturgical”, said Rossing. “It has a lot of forms, icons, candles, processions… Protestantism tends to be more mental, with less ritual. Also, Protestants don’t have celibate monks”.

The Greek Orthodox Church, sometimes known as the Eastern Orthodox Church, has its origins in the fracturing of the Roman Empire. In the third century, Emperor Constantine declared the new capital of Rome to be the eastern city of Constantinople. Thus began a gradual distancing between the eastern and western halves of the empire.

As the Latin-speaking western half and the Greek-speaking eastern half drew apart, theological differences and power struggles within the Church culminated in the Great Schism, in which the leaders of the eastern and western regions of the Church excommunicated each other. They split into the western Latin Church – now Roman Catholics – and the eastern Greek Church now knows as the Orthodox Church.

The word Orthodox is a Greek one for “correctly believing”, referring to the Orthodox Church’s view that it holds to the original, correct form of Christianity. The Greek Orthodox actually refer to themselves as the Roum Orthodox; they were named the Greek Orthodox by “the Latins”, and the name stuck.

Today there are about 40.000 native Orthodox Christians in Israel and the Palestinian territories. Most are Palestinian Arabs, save a small Greek clergy which leads them.

SAFEGUARDING HOLY PLACES

Some 120 monks live and worship at a beautiful monastery in the Old City of Jerusalem, which acts as the headquarters of the Patriarchate. These celibate monks are mostly Greek, and make up the core of the Church’s clergy.

The monks live a life of prayer and study (see adjacent story), and count pastoral service among their responsibilities, as well as the maintenance and veneration of the Church’s holy places.

A governing council of 18 bishops, called the Holy Synod, governs the monk’s brotherhood and the Church, and is responsible for the election of the Patriarch. In 2005 it appointed His Beatitude Theophilos III as Patriarch of Jerusalem.

“A main mission of the Patriarchate is to look after the holy places”, said Patriarch Theophilos. “We keep the holy places accessible to everyone without discrimination”.

Perhaps the holiest place under the Church’s purview is the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. The Greek Orthodox Church owns the land on which the site is built, though its administration is divided between six Christian denominations – the Catholics, Armenian Orthodox, Syrian Orthodox, Egyptian Coptics and Ethiopians.

Although the Greek Orthodox Church tends to get along well with other Christian denominations, the site has a history of flaring tensions.

In 1853, the sultan at the time issued a “status quo” decree at the Sepulchre, requiring that all six denominations agree on any structural changes to the church. This jigsaw of responsibility resulted in a deadlock in which changes cannot be agreed upon, including important ones such as the construction of a fire escape to supplement the Sepulchre’s single entrance.

The symbol of the Sepulchre’s status quo quagmire is a famous ladder, which was placed against a wall during the 1800s and has remained there ever since because no faction has the authority to remove it.

Even slight structural changes have incited clerical violence. When an Egyptian monk in 2002 attempted to move his chair into the shade, it provoked a brawl with the Ethiopians, who rejected his jurisdiction over the area. However, such incidents are relatively rare, and the shared administration of the Church generally proceeds in good faith.

The Greek Orthodox Church bears the largest share of responsibility for the Holy Sepulchre, and counts several holy relics among its treasures there. Under glass can be seen what is said to be part of John the Baptist’s skull, and the hand of Mary Magdalene.

GREEK CLERGY, ARAB LAITY

Besides the Church’s devotion to maintaining the holy places, Patriarch Theophilos said its responsibility is to “take care of the various Orthodox communities all over – Israel, the Palestinian territories and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan”.

However, there have been accusations that too much time is dedicated to the holy places, and that the Church’s flock is a secondary concern.

“Some say the Catholics, for example, do much more for educational, medical and charity work than the Greek Orthodox Church”, said Daniel Rossing, Executive Director of the Center for Jewish-Christian Relations. “They say the [Orthodox Church] gives too much emphasis to the holy places”.

Another concern is that the Arab laity is not well-represented in the Church’s leadership, which tends to be mainly Greek.

Rabbi David Rosen of the American Jewish Committee said it’s an ancient problem. “There has been historical tension between the leadership and the laity [regarding this issue]. It is the only Christian denomination in the Holy Land whose leadership is not from its rank and file. All the churches led by Arab clergy, except for this one”.

Rosen suggested that the clergy remains overwhelmingly Greek because the Church sees its mission as a continuation of original Christianity. “If you ask the leadership, or the Church anywhere in the world, they will tell you it’s an historical Church, and its significance goes far beyond the local ethnic constituency. It’s part of its historic identity and responsibility.

“But if you ask the majority of the Orthodox faithful in the area”, he continued, “they think the clergy should represent the ethnic community. This has been a source of tension for as long as anyone can remember”.

Patriarch Theophilos called these claims “totally untrue”.

“In the past there have been problems, but it doesn’t mean the Patriarchate is not looking after its flocks. We’ve taken initiatives to promote education, to built schools.

“Right now there are two members of the Holy Synod who are Arab”, he said. “It’s just a matter of time”.

A notable figure fighting for Arab rights in the Orthodox Church was Theodosios, originally named Atalla Hanna, who was appointed Archbishop in 2005. He was only the second Palestinian to hold that rank in the church’s history.

Although Theodosios declined to comment on the current relationship between the Arab laity and the Greek clergy, before his appointment as Archbishop he was an infamous figure in Greek Orthodox circles.

Theodosios gained popularity with the Arab laity for his fiery denunciations of the Israeli occupation, to the point that in 2002 he was briefly arrested by the Israeli authorities on suspicion of “incitement” and links with terrorist organizations.

The Church clergy was unhappy with Theodosios stance, seeking as always to maintain good relations with the authorities in control.

“Our position here has been always to contribute as much as we can to peace, mutual coexistence, tolerance”, said Patriarch Theophilos.

But despite its best efforts to remain neutral, the Church has sometimes been caught up in the turbulence.

The most recent crisis was about land.

LANDLORD

The Greek Orthodox Church is the largest landowner in the Old City of Jerusalem. It owns much of the land from the Jaffa Gate down the street of the Greek Patriarchate, all the way to the Holy Sepulchre.

Besides owning the land on which many holy places and adjacent properties stand, the Church counts among its holdings the land under the Israeli Prime Minister’s residence, and under the Israeli Knesset.

The land has belonged to the Church since ancient times. Patriarch Theophilos explained that the Church “is the inheritor not only of great spiritual heritage, but also natural, fiscal heritage”.

After the Muslims occupied the Holy Land, then-Patriarch Sophronius remained the ethnic and religious leader for the Christians there. The Greek Orthodox Church inherited the churches, basilicas and adjacent lands that had belonged to the conquered Byzantines. During the course of its history, the Church acquired even more land.

When both the Israelis and the Palestinians place such a high value on Jerusalem, the Church’s extensive land ownership has sometimes put it in a delicate position.

CRISIS

In 2005, then-Patriarch Irenaios sparked outrage within the Church after he reportedly sold some of its land to a group of Israeli investors.

The clergy was incensed that the Patriarch would sell Church land, and the Arab laity even more so, because they left that their land had been sold to Israelis. In response, the Holy Synod stripped Patriarch Irenaios of his position, replacing him with the current Patriarch, Theophilos III.

This began a difficult two-year stretch for the Church. Besides the controversy within the Church, external problems surfaced as well.

The Israeli government refused to recognize Irenaios’s removal, citing the need for government approval for the action. By the same token, it refused to confirm Patriarch Theophilos as Irenaios’s successor. Some accusations said figures in the Israeli government blocked the Patriarchate’s recognition in order to gain valuable church properties.

As Patriarch Theophilos labored to restore the Church to its previous calm, he was challenged with a government freeze of the Patriarchate’s bank accounts, the funds of which were needed for maintaining the holy places and the Patriarchate’s school system.

The following year, the Israeli government refused to renew visas for many of the Greek clergy, which would have necessitated their exodus from Israel.

Even the Jordanian government, whose Christians fall under the Jerusalem Patriarchate’s authority, for a time refused to recognize Theophilos either.

But Theophilos weathered the storm, appealing to the Israeli Supreme Court for recognition. He won his battle in 2007, and was confirmed in his role by the governments of Israel and Jordan.

Asked how he overcame the crisis, Patriarch Theophilos said he did it “with prayer, and with patience. With wisdom, persistence, and firmness. I myself knew what it was all about. I knew that all the problems were stemming not from the government itself, but from certain key persons who had a vested interest”. Theophilos declined to name particular persons.

TO THE FUTURE

Having weathered its recent crisis, speculations arise on the challenges the Church will face in the future. Rabbi Rosen sees the shifting ethnic makeup as a driver of future change.

“One fascinating thing about the Orthodox Church is the change of attendance over the past 20 years”. He said, referring to the mass immigration from Russia and other former Soviet countries.

Under Israel’s Law of Return, any person with at least one Jewish grandparent is entitled to make aliya – to immigrate to Israel. This has resulted in many Russian immigrants who may have a Jewish grandparent, but practice as Orthodox Christians. Estimates of the number of these immigrants vary, but Patriarch Theophilos says there may be as many as 50.000, which is greater than the native Arab Orthodox population.

Patriarch Theophilos acknowledged the new constituents, but was not concerned. “On the contrary”, he said, “this is something that’s repeating itself from 70, 100 years ago. We had a great influx of pilgrims. We’re very glad for the [immigration]… people are returning from former Soviet republics, communist countries. They feel at home because the Patriarchate represents all of them”.

If history is any guide, the Orthodox Church will welcome these new immigrants and continue to chart its course as it has since the earliest days of Christianity.

This article which includes the interview was published by The Jerusalem Post Christian Edition in July 2010. The author is Dov Preminger.

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A TEAM OF CHRISTIANS AND JEWS VISIT THE PATRIARCHATE.

On Tuesday 14th / 27th of July 2010, His Beatitude Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos III received at the Patriarchate Rabbi Dr. David Rozen with a team of scientists of various disciplines, Christians and Jews. The visit’s purpose was to accomplish a constructive discussion on religious, social, political, and other topics of the region of the Middle East as well as other regions.  Rabbi Dr. David Rozen is well known amongst the Christian circles for his broad knowledge, erudition and for his active participation in and contribution to the dialogue between Judaism and Christianity as well as between Orthodoxy and Judaism under the aegis of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.

Rabbi Dr. David Rozen commended His Beatitude for His active participation in the inter-religious dialogue, His pacifying role in the Middle East peace process and for the time He has devoted to this.

During the discussion, His Beatitude explained to the members of the visiting group the position and the efforts of the Patriarchate in the Holy Land and the Holy Shrines, from the very beginning during the early Christian times and also during the Byzantine times when the great Churches were built, namely the Church of the Resurrection and the Basilica of the Nativity in Bethlehem and the great historical Monasteries of the desert.

«This period» His Beatitude clarified «ended with the surrender of Jerusalem, in 638 AD, to the Muslim Caliph Omar Hatamb by the Patriarch of Jerusalem Sophronios, who, at that time, assumed the role of the Ethnarch.  Upon the signed agreement at that time- Achtiname, the relations were founded between the Patriarchate and Islam, during the era of the Arab and Turkish rule».

« In accordance with this agreement, the Patriarchate protects the shrines, Christian, Jewish, and Muslim.  The Patriarchate has spiritual wealth, that is to say its religious and cultural heritage, but also tangible wealth such as residences and other land holdings for the maintenance of its flock and for the support of its institutions».

«The relations between the Patriarchate and Judaism are both close and deep in the context of the relationship between the two Testaments, Old and New, but also the liturgical life of the Church.  The prophecies and the psalms are recited during the ceremonies of our Church along with the Gospels and the Epistles of the New Testament and the ecclesiastical hymns».

Replying to a pertinent question His Beatitude explained that the Patriarchate, from its revenues and from the donations of charitable Societies, Non Governmental Organizations and pious worshipers, maintains and preserves the Holy Shrines, establishes and runs schools and philanthropic foundations, and takes an active role in resolving problems that arise due to the political tension.

With respect to the political problem of Jerusalem and the Middle East, His Beatitude replied that the Patriarchate maintains that Jerusalem should be an open city with free access for all followers of all religions to their Holy Places.  Furthermore, His Beatitude elaborated that the Patriarchate, along with the other Churches, actively and religiously participates in the advancement of the peace process.

«If the above is not achieved» stated His Beatitude, «that is, the reciprocal mutual acceptance of both nations also on a religious basis, then no political solution will be viable.  The Patriarchate and the other Christian Churches of the Holy Land contribute towards the advancement of peace to prevail, mainly through the work of the Council of Religious Institutions of the Holy Land.  Due to this contribution, the Patriarchate is visited by diplomats, representatives of states, peace missions and political figures, such as the former President of the USA, Mr. Jimmy Carter, a year ago».

«If no regard is paid to the religious parameters particular to Jerusalem, then no political solution will either be achieved or founded in a viable manner.  The Patriarchate follows with commiseration the consequences of the political tension and participates in the suffering of its victims with prayer, dialogue and endeavours of peaceful existence and with the propagation of a message of apology, love, forgiveness, conciliation, and peace».

At the conclusion of this meeting, His Beatitude Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos III presented each one of the members of the aforementioned group with the book by Mr. Votokopoulos on the illustrated manuscripts of the Central Library of the Patriarchate.

Chief Secretary’s Office.

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INAUGURATION OF THE RENOVATED ISRAEL MUSEUM IN JERUSALEM.

The Israel Museum is situated in West Jerusalem near the Church of the Holy Cross of the Patriarchate and close to the Knesset of the State of Israel and near the Givat Ram campus of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.  This Museum was created and has been operating since 1965 with the inspiration of the Mayor of Jerusalem at that time, Teddy Kolek and through his collaboration with many representatives of successive Israeli Governments and of the Jewish society.  Alfred Mansfield & Dora Gad were the architects of the Museum.

During the last three years, through the rigorous efforts and actions of the Director of the Museum for 13 years, Mr. James Snyder and of the Architects ‘Caprenter’s & Efrat Kowalsky’, it has been renovated with regard to the structural and building elements of its three wings, the halls and the manner of arranging and exhibiting its artifacts, with the purpose of better achieving its educational aims.  The cost of these works amounted to one hundred million (100,000,000) US dollars.

This indeed ambitious, multifaceted and noteworthy project was accomplished during the planned short duration of three years and included exterior structural alterations, reconstructions and addenda which preserved the blending of the building with the natural surroundings of the valley and hillside of the Church of the Holy Cross (Minzar Ha-Matzlevah).  With these construction works, the surface area of the Museum floor-space was increased from 100,000 square metres to 200,000 m².

The occasion of the renovation was celebrated with an inauguration ceremony which took place on Sunday, the 12th / 25th of July 2010 in an open area of the museum constructed in an amphitheatre design.

On behalf of the Patriarchate, His Beatitude Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos III and the Elder Chief Secretary of the Patriarchate His Eminence Aristarchos Archbishop of Constantina were invited to attend the ceremony.

Honouring the ceremony with their presence were the Prime Minister of the State of Israel Mr. Benjamin Netanyahu, the President of the State His Excellency Mr. Shimon Peres, the Minister of Welfare & Social Services of Israel Mr. Isaac Herzog, and other Ministers, the Mayor of Jerusalem Mr. Nir Barkat, highest ranking government and academic representatives, Ambassadors and Consuls of States to the State of Israel, all in the midst of a dense public.

This audience was addressed by the Director of the Museum Mr. James Snyder, the President of the State of Israel His Excellency Mr. Shimon Peres, the Prime Minister His Excellency Mr. Benjamin Netanyahu, and the Mayor of Jerusalem Mr. Nir Barkat.

In his address, the Director of the Museum Mr. Snyder thanked all those who contributed to the renovation project, the government representatives, the architects ‘Carpenter’s & Efrat Kowalsky’, the personnel and, the sponsors, many of whom were present.  The other speakers, the Prime Minister and the President, emphasized the tenacity and the dynamic spirit of Mr. Snyder and the precision and professionalism of the work accomplished by him.

After the conclusion of the inauguration ceremony, members of the audience were invited, if they so wished, to take part in a guided tour of the Museum halls with their new arrangement of floor-space and the artifacts exhibit.

Chief Secretary’s Office.

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THE UKRANIAN FOREIGN AFFAIRS MINISTER VISITS THE PATRIARCHATE OF JERUSALEM.

On Wednesday the 9th / 22nd of July 2010, the Foreign Affairs Minister of Ukraine His Excellency Mr. Kostyantyn Gryshchenko  visited the Patriarchate of Jerusalem accompanied by the Ambassador of Ukraine to the State of Israel His Excellency Mr. Hennadii Nadolenko. His Beatitude Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos III addressed the honourable guests as follows:

“We welcome you with joy, Your Excellency, at our Patriarchate.  As you know, the Patriarchate has and performs a significant role at the Holy Shrines and in the peace process in the Holy Land.  The history of the Patriarchate is the history of the Holy Land.  The Patriarchate maintains close ties with, initially, Judaism and since the 7th century with Islam.  The role of the Patriarchate is instrumental in the shaping of the status quo of Jerusalem.  The Patriarchate has preserved and sustained the Holy Places-Holy Shrines whilst maintaining a close relationship with Ukraine which has a rich cultural heritage”.

Replying His Excellency Mr.Hryshenko said:

“It is true that we are aware of the role of the Patriarchate in the Holy Land and the efforts the Patriarchate is putting forth for the unity of the people in the Ukraine and the opinions that you have expressed on this”.

His Beatitude presented His Excellency with an icon of the Holy Sepulchre and the book by Mr. Vokotopoulos on the manuscripts of the Patriarchate Library. His Excellency then reciprocated by presenting His Beatitude with a depiction of the Parliament of Ukraine and a book on the cultural treasures of Ukraine.

Chief Secretary’s Office.

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THE PRIME MINISTER OF GREECE HIS EXCELLENCY MR. GEORGE PAPANDREOU VISITS THE PATRIARCHATE

Within the framework of his two day visit to the State of Israel and the Palestinian Authority, the Prime Minister of Greece, His Excellency Mr. George Papandreou, visited the Patriarchate of Jerusalem on Wednesday, the 8th / 21st of July 2010, around 7:00 pm.

The Prime Minister was received at David’s Gate, by the Elder Chief Secretary of the Patriarchate His Eminence Aristarchos Archbishop of Constantina and by the coordinator of Ceremonies Rev. Archimandrite Fr. Porfyrios.

Thence, approaching the Patriarchate, he was shown around the grounds of the Christian neighborhood of the Patriarchate surroundings and of the Greek Community.  At the junction of the streets of the School of Saint Demetrios and of the Patriarchate, and below his house, the physician Mr. John Tlyle, one of the elders of the Greek Community, received him and presented him with his book entitled “I am Jerusalem”.

The Prime Minister was accompanied by Mr. Demitrios Droutsas, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. George Petalotis, Assistant Minister to the Prime Minister and Government Spokesperson, Mr. Yiannis Zeppos Ambassador and Secretary General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, together with members of his political entourage and by the Ambassador of Greece to Israel His Excellency Mr. Kyriakos Loukakis, the Consul General of Greece in Jerusalem His Excellency Mr. Sotirios Athanasiou and a number of Greek and international journalists.  The Prime Minister was received and welcomed with honour and acclaim by the Archbishops members of the Brotherhood of the Holy Sepulchre, Priests and monks of the Patriarchate and members of the Greek Community at the entrance of the Central Monastery, the Patriarchate of Jerusalem. The Prime Minister was then greeted by His Beatitude Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos III at the entrance of the Throne Hall.

Following the Greeting, His Beatitude Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos addressed His Excellency the Prime Minister of Greece as follows:

“Your Excellency Prime Minister,

The eminent Brotherhood of the Holy Sepulchre today receives and welcomes Your Excellency and distinguished escorts at the august Patriarchate of Jerusalem, with abundant joy. Your peaceful and mediating visit to this region of the Holy Land, which exhibits a political and religious turmoil and where the three Monotheistic religions namely Judaism, Christianity and Islam coexist is of important significance.

It entails particular significance, both for our Patriarchate, which embodies the holy and secular history of Jerusalem diachronically, a history which is connected with the multicultural amplitude of Romiosini and thus, with the history of the Christians in Palestine,  Jordan, and of course Israel, and moreover for our venerable genus and nation which said nation constitutes the moral and material patron and, even more so, the natural guarantor of the inalienable and ab antiquo vested privileges and sovereign rights on the Holy  Shrines with a worldwide character.

The religious and spiritual mission of the Rum Orthodox (Greek Orthodox) Patriarchate, based on the holy scriptures and evangelical commandments: “love thy neighbour as yourself”, (Mathew 19, 19), as well as “love thy enemies . . . you are rightly doing so to your enemies”, (Mathew 5, 44), this  constitutes a vehicle of respect towards the each person and on the other hand provides us with a place of peaceful coexistence and  conciliation among the followers of other religions and dogmas.

We say this now more than  ever before, that the Patriarchate today emerges as a natural and moral institutional factor, one which can contribute towards the solution of the theocratic or the religious Gordian knot that pertains to the diplomatic and political status quo of the future of Jerusalem (it is understood of the Old City of Jerusalem).

This is attested by the fact of the local and international recognition of the standing of the Patriarchate via its participation, not only in interreligious and interchristian dialogues but also, in international political – social conferences.

Your Excellency, Prime Minister,

Being grateful for your genuine interest in the Holy Places and in the Palestinian people as affirmed by the respected Greek Government and You personally, we ask you to accept the wishes of the Brotherhood of the Holy Sepulchre and Our Patriarchal blessings towards the success of Your peace mission to the region.

Furthermore, please accept this decoration of the Grand Cross of the Holy Sepulchre, as an expression of our deep appreciation towards your person and support to the governance and the  financial-political task that you are undertaking with such patience and determination.

Thank you”

Following the address, His Beatitude Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos III, decorated His Excellency Mr. George Papandreou the Prime Minister of the Hellenic Republic with the Order of the Grand Cross of the Knights of the Holy Sepulchre along with the golden necklace as a sign of recognition and accolade for his services to the Hellenic Republic, the nation and to the Patriarchate of Jerusalem.

Visibly moved, His Excellency the Prime Minister of Greece Mr. George Papandreou responded with the following:

“Your Beatitude, it is for me and for the whole of Christianity an exceptional honour to have bestowed upon me this highest medal, that of the Grand Cross of the Holy Sepulchre, and I will carry this cross with the utmost honour and respect, as a symbol of the unbreakable bond between Greece, Fatherland of the Greek People and the Patriarchate of Jerusalem and the Holy Places.  I thank you especially for this honour, which will remain unforgettable for me”.

In addition, His Beatitude offered the Prime Minister an icon of the Nativity, done on the occasion of the celebration of the 2000 years of Christianity.  The Prime Minister reciprocated by presenting His Beatitude a round silver plate with the depicting the 12 Apostles.

Subsequently His Excellency the Prime Minister signed the visitors book and venerated at the Chapel of Sacred Pentecost adjacent to the Throne Hall.

Following this, His Beatitude and His Excellency, accompanied by members of the Brotherhood of the Holy Sepulchre, descended to the Church of Resurrection where they venerated the Stone of Anointing, the Life Giving Tomb of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ-the Holy Sepulchre, and then proceeded to the Catholicon of the Church, venerated the Holy Calvary and the Holy Cross which is located at the Office of the Church of Resurrection.

From the Church of Resurrection the Prime Minister departed in order to carry out his peace mission to the State of Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

Chief Secretary’s Office.

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THE NGO ‘ROMIOSINI’ TO THE HOLY PLACES AND THE PATRIARCHATE.

On Friday 26th of June / 9th of July 2010, His Beatitude Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos III received a group of around 50 pilgrims who had come to venerate the Holy Places within the framework of a pilgrimage embarked upon by the Non Governmental Organization ‘Romiosini’ the purpose of which was the support and promotion of the Holy Shrines and their preservation by the Patriarchate of Jerusalem.

This pilgrimage included Egypt, the pyramids and the Holy Monastery of Saint Catherine in Sinai and, in the north and the south of the Holy Land, all the Holy Shrines including, primarily, the Church of Resurrection and the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem.

His Beatitude Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos III addressed the members of ‘Romiosini’ elaborating on the work done by the Patriarchate and the Brotherhood of the Holy Sepuchre in guarding and preserving the Holy Places of Christianity in the Holy Land. His Beatitude then presented them with souvenirs of the Holy Places praising them for their endeavours and unwavering support given to the august Patriarchate of Jerusalem.

Chief Secretary’s Office.

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AN ADDRESS OF H.B. PATRIARCH THEOPHILOS III AT PALESTINIAN EMBASSY IN WARSAW.

His Beatitude Theophilos III

Patriarch of Jerusalem

28 June 2010

Distinguished guests,

I stand before you in the presence of Archbishop Sawa of Warsaw and Metropolitan of All Poland and H.E. Ambassador Ghazal, carrying greetings, messages and concerns from your brethren in humanity, the people of Jerusalem, the people of the holiest of all cities that can be remembered synonymous for political divinity.

The Patriarchate of Jerusalem has its roots dating back 2000 years in the history of the Holy City, during which many wars, conquerors, natural disasters, scientific breakthroughs and literary masterpieces have been initiated or took place to change the course of the history of the Middle East and in some cases the entire world.

Our Patriarchate has had unique relations with the Orthodox Church of Warsaw for many years, especially since the Late Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophanis.  And this welcomed invitation for us to visit here with you is furthering these historic good ties and positive cooperative relationship between our church and the Church of Warsaw.

The Patriarchate of Jerusalem is probably the longest running institution in the world and remains committed to keeping this status forever as well as witnessing peace in our City of Peace.  Our Patriarchate remains enthusiastic in it’s pursue of peace through local, interchurch and interfaith activities.  The role of a religious leadership in a city like Jerusalem or a part of the world like the Middle East isn’t necessarily typical.  Much of the work of religious and social duties that most religious leaders of the world are obligated to fulfill, in Jerusalem they must fulfill on the grass-root level to promote peace and to fill people’s hearts with hope for a stable future.

On the interchurch level, many activities and plans are executed with the aim of preserving the ever-dwindling Christian population of the Holy Land and perfecting the role of bridging between all parties concerned; having a vital interest in Jerusalem’s religious significance. Many of these efforts are channeled through the Council of Religious Institutions of the Holy Land.  On the interfaith level, our historical position and international network of friends and supporters provide us with an asset to contribute to interfaith initiatives and peace efforts since we have been a witness to many decades of peace and stability in the Holy Lands.

Since peace and stability were possible and indeed real in the past, we see no logical reason for not achieving it today and sustaining it for the future.

We have supported and still support peace efforts by the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) and his government led by Prime Minister Dr. Salaam Fayyad.   We pray to almighty God that Justice, Peace and stability will be realised in the Holy Land, and the Palestinian people achieve their rightful National rights.




AN ADDRESS OF H.B. PATRIARCH THEOPHILOS III AT THE MAJDANEK DEATH CAMP IN LUBLIN.

His Beatitude Theophilos III

Patriarch of Jerusalem

25 June 2010

Your Eminences,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Whenever we come to a place where there has been human suffering and death, we know that we are walking on holy ground.   We who live in Jerusalem understand this very well.    And when we are on holy ground, we must walk with prayerful reverence.

Here at Majdanek, as well as at the other concentration camps of the Nazi regime, unspeakable inhumane and barbaric acts were carried out systematically against the Jewish people.   Others, including Christians, and among them several whom we now venerate among the saints of the Church, also suffered in the concentration camps during this brutal period of the 20th century, often simply because of their national or religious identity.

Majdanek stands as a stern and compelling reminder to us that we must never forget this terrible history, because the responsibility rests on our shoulders to ensure that such things never happen in our generation or in generations to come.   As the eye-witnesses of what occurred here and elsewhere pass away, we in the next generations who have known them also have a duty to pass on to our children the great dangers that flow from prejudice and discrimination.   If there is a fine line between fear and discrimination, there is an even finer line between discrimination and persecution.

Both Jews and Christians place the highest value on the human person.   The Holy Scriptures assure us that we are made in the image and likeness of God, and for us Orthodox Christians this means quite simply, and yet also quite profoundly, that every human person is an icon of God himself.   We bear this privilege, and this responsibility, in equal measure.

Therefore any inhumane act of one human person against another is not just a crime against a fellow human being;  it is an insult against God.   One might go so far as to say that such acts amount to a denial of the Creator.   Violence dehumanizes all concerned, both perpetrators as well as victims.   It is the moral imperative of all who desire to build a new future for the human community, based on mutual respect and peaceful co-existence, to do all in our power to break cycles of violence wherever they manifest themselves.

As we gather here in this resolve, our minds and our prayers turn to those who perished here so unnecessarily.   We pray that Almighty God, in his infinite mercy and philanthropy, may give rest to the dead who bear such a witness still.   May their memory be blessed and eternal.   And may we, the living, learn a new commitment to forgiveness and reconciliation, for these are the firm foundation of human society.

Thank you.




DR. HANNA AISSA DECORATED BY THE PATRIARCHATE OF JERUSALEM.

On Wednesday 10th – 23rd of June 2010, His Beatitude Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos III decorated Dr. Aissa Hanna, member of the Arab-speaking Orthodox flock of our Patriarchate. Dr. Hanna is employed at the Palestinian Authority’s Presidential Office serving by the President Mahmud Abbas Abu Mazen and the Prime Minister Salam Fayyad.

His Beatitude decorated Dr. Aissa Hanna with the order of the Orthodox ‘Cross-Bearer of the Holy Sepulchre’.

His Beatitude received Dr. Hanna at the Patriarchate noting “that the Patriarchate is regarded as Dr. Hanna’s home and of all Palestinians, Christian and Muslim. We cordially welcome Dr. Hanna to the Patriarchate and to the Holy City of Jerusalem.

We praise him for his numerous years of ethical and substantive interest in favour of the Patriarchate’s Communities. We hereby decorate Dr. Aissa Hanna with the order of the ‘Cross Bearer of the Holy Sepulchre”.

Dr. Hanna with deep emotion expressed his gratitude and promised to His Beatitude that he will dedicate all his powers in serving the Church and Country.

Chief Secretary’s Office.

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