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HIS BEATITUDE ADDRESS TO MR. BAHIJ MANSOUR AMBASSADOR TO THE CARIBBEAN ISLANDS.

Koufr Yassif, Friday the 21th of June, 2013

 

Your Excellency (Mr. Bahij Mansour),

We would like to extend our sincerest appreciation for the honor of joining you in your bittersweet farewell from your position as the director of Interreligious Affairs in Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. We also bid you wishes for success as you take on your new role as Israel’s ambassador to the Caribbean Islands.

Throughout your years of service you have been a true asset to Israel’s various communities, and especially attentive to the needs of our Christian communities. Your absence will surely be felt. As a result of your dedication to harmonious coexistence, you have managed to cultivate and promote relations amongst Israel’s religious establishments, Druze, Muslim, and Christian communities, which are based on mutual respect.

We hope and pray that your new assignment will be a continuation of achievement, and that you meet it with the same fervor that you have possessed throughout your extensive diplomatic career. Your contributions will undoubtedly be significant.

May God enlighten the path ahead of you, and grant you success and longevity in your life and in your paramount career.

 

His Beatitude

THEOPHILOS III

Patriarch of Jerusalem




CELEBRATING THE SUNDAY OF THE SAMARITAN WOMAN AT THE PATRIARCHATE

The Patriarchate celebrated the feast of the Samaritan Woman on Sunday the 20th of May/ 2nd of June 2013, at the pilgrimage site of Jacob’s Well.

On the word of the Old Testament and the Gospel of John in the New Testament (Jn, 4, 1-38), the Well was dug in the land of Samaria by Jacob the patriarch between the mountains Yeval and Yoresin.

At this precise Well did the Samaritan woman, who arrived here from the town of Sychar in order to draw water, came upon the Lord who, as by fishing, initiated her into Himself as Christ and changed her life so that she would depart from sin and receive holiness and this very testimony. Indeed, she is commemorated within the cycle of movable feasts on the fourth Sunday after Easter.

It is in this Pilgrimage site that, in the course of our days, the neomartyr St Philoumen of the Holy Sepulcher died a martyric death. The site has been laudably exalted since a few years by its Hegoumen, the Archimandrite father Ioustinos by means of the construction of a magnificent Church, an ornament to the city of Neapolis. Here, on the aforementioned day, His Beatitude Theophilos, Our Father and Patriarch of Jerusalem, officiated the divine liturgy together with Patriarchal Vicar, Esychios, the Right Reverend Metropolitan of Kapitolias; His Eminence Aristarchos, the Archbishop of Constantina and Grand Chancellor; His Eminence Damaskinos, the Archbishop of Ioppi; His Eminence Theophylaktos, the Archbishop of Iordanis; his Eminence Philoumenos, the Archbishop of Pella; Hieromonks of the Holy Sepulcher and Priests of major parishes from townships adjoining Neapolis, such as Raphidia, Toumba and Zampapde, in the presence of the faithful who had reached Neapolis from adjoining towns.

During the Koinonikon of the Divine Liturgy, His Beatitude proclaimed to everyone the word of God in the Greek language.

This is an excerpt from His speech:

Today, on the fifth Sunday after Easter, the Church of Christ celebrates the feast of the Samaritan woman in this very site where also lies the Well of Jacob the Patriarch.

This site is of special importance, for it is not only a historical and sacred one, but also a site evangelizing the testimony of Our Lord Jesus Christ, that God is a spirit and those that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth (Jn 4, 24). In addition, the spiritual well built upon the actual Jacob’s well, namely the holy Altar of this splendid Church in honour of St Photini, the Samaritan Woman, attests to the Word of our Savior Christ to the Samaritan Woman and to any man with a thirst for the salvaging truth, that: “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (Jn 4, 13-14).  

The Divine Liturgy was followed by a litany thrice around the Holy Church.

After the litany, the proprietor and hegoumen, Archimandrite f. Ioustinos, hosted a festive meal for His Beatitude, His Retinue and scores of people.

From the Secretariat- General

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GRADUATION CEREMONY AT ST DEMETRIUS SCHOOL

At 5:00 pm of Saturday the 19th of May/1st of June 2013, the graduation ceremony of 20 graduating students took place at the hall of ceremonies of “St Demetrius” Patriarchal School, in the presence of His Beatitude Theophilos III, Our Father and Patriarch of Jerusalem; the Consul General of Greece in Jerusalem, Mr Soterios Athanasiou and his honorable wife, a Greek Language teacher at the School; the representative of the Republic of Cyprus to the Palestinian Autonomy, Mr Antonios Samoutis, the representative of the Palestinian Autonomy Minister of Education, Mr Samir Gabriye, the Chairman of the School Board of Patriarchal Schools in Israel; the Most Reverend Esychios, Metropolitan of Kapitolia, the Grand Chancellor Aristarchos, Archbishop of Constantina; the Patriarchal Commissioner in Irbet, Jordan, His Eminence Philoumenos, Archbishop of Pella; Archdeacon f. Athanasios, Hierodeacon f. Eulogios, the School’s Principal Mr Samir Zananiri, teachers at the School and the graduates’ parents and other relatives.

The building of the School of “St Demetrius” which was essentially the latest expansion of the Patriarchate towards the Jaffa Gate, served as the Patriarchate School from which most of the either departed or living guardians of the Holy Sepulcher had graduated until the year 1970, when the School was transferred to the building now standing out on top of the Hill of St Sion.

The premises of the Hieratic School were offered from 1985 onwards by Diodoros, the Late Patriarch of Jerusalem, for the accommodation of a Preschool, an Elementary School, a High School and a Lyceum, maintained by the Patriarchate under the name “St Demetrius”, owing to the existence within the school complex, of an ancient Chapel in honor of the glorified great martyr St Demetrius the Myrrh-Bearer.

The well-organized ceremony began with the prayer “Christ is risen” in Greek and “Al Massih Kam” in Arab, followed by recitations of the National Palestinian Anthem and the Greek National Anthem.

The School Principal, Mr Samir Zananiri went on to extend his gratitude to His Beatitude for the moral and material help offered by the Patriarchate to the School, to Mr Hanna Amire, Chairman of the Committee on Christian Affairs, for the financial aid provided by the Palestinian Autonomy towards repairs and renovations at the School, and also praised the graduates for their performance and ethics, wishing that they successfully pursue their studies and perform well in society.

Two graduates offered flowers to his Beatitude and the Chairman of the School Board for their support to the School.

Students at the Preschool, Elementary School, High School and Lyceum, boys and girls alike, performed Palestinian dances.

Three representatives of the graduating students spoke on behalf of their peers, one in Arab, one in English and one in Greek, pointing out how difficult it is to be diligent and perform well, and how such difficulties may be overcome with the help of parents and teachers, to whom they extended their deep gratitude.  

A touching moment at the ceremony was the presentation of the Principal with an honorary plaque and the “change of guard” between this year’s (2012-2013) graduating students and seniors of the next academic year.

The ceremony was concluded with an address of His Beatitude in Arab, as follows at:https://en.jerusalem-patriarchate.info/ar/2013/06/01/2429/ stressing the importance attributed by the Patriarchate to the education of youth at schools maintained on its own expenses and the donations of charity foundations where the coexistence of Christian and Muslim students is favored and promoted and greatly contributes to the peaceful symbiosis and cooperation between such fellow students.

The ceremony closed with His Beatitude and the Professors conferring the titles to the graduating students, followed by the Palestinian National Anthem and His Beatitude’s prayer for longevity.

From the Secretariat-General

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H.B. ADDRESS TO HIS EXCELLENCY VLADIMIR PUTIN THE PRESIDENT OF THE RUSSIAN FEDERATION-SOCHI (27-5-2013).

Sochi, 27 of May, 2013

Esteemed Vladimir Vladimirovitch,

Your Holiness,

Your Eminences,

Reverend Fathers,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Christ is risen!  He is risen indeed!

Christos voskresiye! Vayistenu voskresiye!

It is a great honour for us to be received by you, Your Excellency, here in Moscow, and as we are here with you, we recall with great warmth your most recent visit to the Holy Land and to Jerusalem, when we welcomed you as a pilgrim to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the Church of the Nativity, and the Baptism Site in Jordan. The Holy Land has always held a special place in the hearts and imaginations of the Russian people, and we know of your commitment; and devotion.

Just as the light from the Holy Fire was brought to Russia just a short time ago at Pascha, so we bring with us the blessings and the light of the resurrection from the empty Tomb of our Lord Jesus Christ. For this light is the hope of the world.

We are here on our eirenicon – our visit of kinship to our Sister Church of Russia – and we are also here to give spiritual encouragement to all the Russian peoples. The mission of the Church always faces great challenges, even in the best of circumstances, and we know that this is a time in which the religious traditions and moral values of the Holy Orthodox Church of Russia are under some pressure.

We come in our turn, as you know full well, from a region that is volatile and where many communities, among them Christian communities, face real danger. We remain steadfast In our mission tο proclaim with all the means in our power the saving message of our faith, which is nothing less than the love and reconciliation of Cod. It is crucial for the integrity and the future of the Middle East that we maintain genuine mutual respect between faiths, cultures and ethnicities in our region.

We would like to assure you, Your Excellency, of our appreciation of your tireless efforts in defending Christian moral values and in supposing the Russian Orthodox Church as she works for the unity of the Russian peoples.

We appreciate deeply your concern for Jerusalem and the Holy Land, and we repeat our thanks to you for all that you have done on our behalf. We value your attention to help to contain those forces that threaten the peace and stability of the world, and especially of the Middle East. We know that you bear a heavy burden of leadership.

We know that you uphold the sacredness of Jerusalem by encouraging pilgrimages of the Russian people to the Holy Land.   Pilgrimages are crucial for us, for they accomplish two things. On the one hand, pilgrimage to the Holy Land opens to the faithful and to others of goodwill the mystery of Cod and the reality of our sacred history. And on the other hand, pilgrimage also safe-guards the Patriarchate, and encourages our local Palestinian Christian communities, spread across the Jurisdiction of the Patriarchate in Israel, Palestine, the Hashemlte Kingdom of Jordan, and Qatar, to know that they are not forgotten as they face huge challenges.

Thank you again for your warm welcome. Please allow us, in recognition of your leadership and your work on behalf of the Church in the Holy Land, to bestow on you the Order of the Holy Tomb. And we pray for Cod’s blessing on you, your family, and on all the people of your beloved Russia.

Christ is risen!  He is risen indeed! Christos voskresiye! Vayistenu voskresiye!

Thank you.

His Beatitude

Theophilos III

Patriarch of Jerusalem

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H.B. ADDRESS AT THE INAUGURATION & PRESENTATION OF THE EUCHARISTIC SYMPHONY DVD.

Holy City of Jerusalem, 16 May 2013

 

Your Excellency, Father Pierbattista

Mademoiselle Nebel,

Dear Fathers and Brothers,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

 

Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!

 Al- Masiach qam! Hakken qam!

 

We are delighted to welcome you today to the new Bookshop of the Patriarchate of Jerusalem, the opening and dedication of which we recently celebrated. This Bookshop is a visible extension of the mission of the Patriarchate, and its prominence here at the Jaffa Gate is a sign to all pilgrims and visitors both of the Christian character of Jerusalem and of the religious, cultural and ethnic diversity that is such a vital component of our common life in the HolyCity.

We are gathered here today for the purpose of celebrating a wonderful endeavor. For today we are launching the DVD of the World Premiere of the Eucharistic Symphony, which took place in the Garden of Gethsemane on 22 September 2012. This symphony was composed by Father Armando Pierucci and the production of this DVD has been ion the capable hands  of Mademoiselle Veronique  Nebel. Through her labour of devotion, all those who love the Holy Land, and who work for peace, justice and mutual co-existence, may be inspired by this remarkable event. We thank you most warmly for your work.

This Eucharistic Symphony is important for two reasons.

First, it emphasizes the truth that at the heart of the Christian life is the Eucharistic Liturgy. It is the Eucharist that makes the Church, and it is right that a symphony that gathers Christian voices should have at its heart this great action of the Church in which earth and heaven are joined.

And secondly, by gathering voices from twelve different Christian liturgical traditions, we could have no more eloquent testimony to the rich diversity of the life of the Christian communities of the Holy Land. Jerusalem is a city of many voices, voices that, by God’s grace, are made for harmony. It is this harmony that must always be at the heart of our common witness to the Gospel in the Holy Land, and in desiring to promote “increased mutual awareness” between ChristianChurches and for the respect of religious freedom” , this project has an admirable goal.

This is a critical period in the history of our city and region, and we are glad to support a project that seeks to uphold the fundamental values and values of our heritage.

Once again, we thank you. Mademoiselle Nebel. for your work in making the Eucharistic Symphony available in this way, and we invite you all to Stay after this time of opening remarks to view excerpts from the DVD in the Bookshop.

Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!

 Al- Masiach qam! Hakken qam!

 

His Beatitude

THEOPHILOS III

Patriarch of Jerusalem

 




PASCHAL GREETING TO H.B. NOURHAN MANOUGIAN, ARMENIAN PATRIARCH OF JERUSALEM.

Holy City of Jerusalem, 8 May 2013

 

Your Beatitude,

Your Eminences,

Reverend Fathers,

Dear Members of the Brotherhood of Saint James,

 

It is the day of the Resurrection.

Let us shine brightly for the festival, and also embrace one another-And thus let us cry aloud,

Christ  is risen from the dead; by death he has trampled death,

and to those in the tombs he has granted life”,  (Anastaseos imera).

We greet you, Your Beatitude, in the light and the grace of this Joyful Feast of Feasts, when the Church rejoices in the victory of our Lord Jesus Christ over the power of death. This day of resurrection is. therefore, a day of new birth for humanity and the world, for the gate of heaven is now open to all.

We are especially glad to share in this celebration with you, Your Beatitude, on this first Easter after your election. We have worked together in the past, and with your election we look, forward to a deeper and stronger relationship between our two Brotherhoods as we move in to the future.

We have been greatly encouraged during this Holy Week and Easter celebration that all has gone smoothly and well In the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and in the Hoiy places, and we Cannot emphasize too strongly the importance of the message to the world of our peaceful co existence. The eyes of all look to Jerusalem in hope, and we are the servants and guardians of those places that are signs to them of this hope: Our privilege comes with a great responsibility.

We know of Your Beatitude’s commitment to this mission- In this time of challenge and uncertainty in our region, our mission is of even greater importance than at any period the past. The  future well-being of the Christian presence in the Holy Land, and the future assurance of the Christian character of Jerusalem, rest on our work together for the sake of these fundamental objectives.

So we are encouraged, and we wish to express to Your Beatitude our commitment to do all in our power to show a united Christian witness at this delicate time in our history, so that the world may see Jerusalem to be a city of genuine coexistence and enduring peace-”

May Christ, our true God, who is risen from the dead, prosper this work by his grace, and may His glorious resurrection from the dead give us courage and confidence in our mission.

We assure you, Your Beatitude, of our prayers for you and for the swift confirmation of your election. And we pray for God’s grace on the Brotherhood of Saint James and the entire Armenian community of the Holy Land.

Christ is risen! He is risen Indeed!

Thank you.

His Beatitude

THEOPHILOS III

Patriarch of Jerusalem




ADDRESS OF WELCOME TO THE HEADS OF CHURCHES ON THE OCCASION OF THEIR PASCHAL VISIT.

Holy City of Jerusalem, 7 May 2013

Your Beatitudes,

Your Eminences,

Your Graces,

Dear Fathers,

Beloved Members of our Respective Brotherhoods,

Christ is risen! He is risen indeed? Al-Masiach qam! Hakken qam!

We welcome you today with the Paschal greeting that echoes down the ages and is the great affirmation of the victory of God over our human death. This is the heart of our Christian faith, that for love of us God the Father raised our Lord Jesus Christ from death, and destroyed the power of death for ever.

At this solemn and joyful time, the Church proclaims that by descending into Hades, our Lord Jesus Christ despoiled death and darkness. In vanquishing Hades, our Lord won great spoils – we and all humanity arte the inestimable and precious spoils that he won. In the light of the resurrection, God has opened the gates of heaven to all, and claimed the whole creation for Himself. As we read in the Gospel of Saint John, our Lord affirms “this is the will of [the Father] who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up at the last day”, (Jn- 6:39).

It is God’s love for the world that lies at the heart of our mission as Churches and Christian communities in the Holy Land. We have been entrusted with the care not just of our own communities, but of all peoples, regardless of ethnic, cultural, and religious affiliation, and our mission is to ensure the diversity that has always marked the civilization of this region. The Holy Land is a beacon for Christians of the Middle East and therefore must be also a beacon to the world of genuine co-existence and mutual respect. Throughout the turbulent history of our region, Jerusalem and the Holy Land have remained an anchor for all.

Despite many difficulties, ours is also the mission to ensure the ongoing presence of the Christian communities of our region, and to guarantee the essential Christian character of Jerusalem and the Holy Land. The Holy Places are a unique focus of sacred history, and we have a moral obligation to live the sacrificial, cruciform life of those to whom this great gift and mission have been given. For we are both the people of the cross and also the people of the resurrection. This is our heritage and our life, and we are experiencing each year a growing number of pilgrims who long for the spiritual benefits that the Holy Places make tangible for them.

We can never rest from this mission, especially at this time when our region is under particular pressure and when we are facing unprecedented challenge and uncertainty. Our prayers at this season of light and hope are especially with the two bishops in Syria who are being held hostage, His Eminence Metropolitan Paul Yazigi of the Rum Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch, and His Eminence Mar Cregorios Ibrahim, the Syrian Orthodox Archbishop of Aleppo. Allow us now to express our sympathy especially to you, Archbishop Sewerios, on this terrible act against your brother Archbishop of Aleppo. As we all know, their kidnapping represents a serious threat to the well-being of our Christian communities and our co-existence, and we make an appeal to their kidnappers to release the bishops quickly and unharmed.

In spite of the challenges that we face, in the words of Saint Paul, “we do not lose heart” ,(2 Cor. 4:16). Ours must always be a message of hope over despair, joy over sadness, light over darkness, life over death. For we are “convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in ail creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord”, (Rom. 8:38-39).

For “Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and giving life to those in the tomb”, (Paschal Troparion). This is our message of hope at this glorious Feast of Feasts, and this is the ground of our confidence in our mission in Jerusalem and our entire region.

May we, on whom so great responsibility has been laid, always be mindful of the mission that is ours, to proclaim the life-giving Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ and his resurrection from the dead. This is the hope of our region, and of our world.

Thank you again for the greetings you have expressed. May the peace and joy of this Paschal Feast fill our hearts.

Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Al-Masiach qam! Hakken qam!

His Beatitude

THEOPHILOS III

Patriarch of Jerusalem




H.B. SPEECH ON THE OCCASION OF THE PASCHAL VISIT OF THE ARMENIAN BROTHERHOOD.

 

Holy City of Jerusalem, 7 May 2013

 

Your Beatitude,

Your Eminences,

Reverend Fathers,

Dear Members of the Brotherhood of Saint James,

The angels in heaven praise your resurrection, Ο Christ our Saviour. Make us also here on earth worthy to glorify you with pure hearts, (The Resurrection Service, 2nd Plagai Tone)

With these joyful words from the Resurrection Service, we welcome you to the Patriarchate of Jerusalem during these festive days of Easter, and we greet you and your Brotherhood.

We give glory to our risen Lord Jesus Christ, for again this year we have celebrated his passion, death, and resurrection in Christian harmony in the very places where these events of eternal significance occurred. As we do every year, but especially this year, we have celebrated the Feast of Resurrection not only with our local faithful, but also with a great number of pilgrims from around the world who have come here to the Holy Places seeking peace and spiritual consolation.

By the grace of God, we have showed the world that indeed the Holy Sepulchre is a place of the true ecumenical spirit where we, the various historical Churches, have prayed together in peace.

We have also shown by doing this that we can overcome family concerns among and by ourselves. We are indeed grateful for this to our Lord, who has given to us in the Holy Land the blessing and the responsibility to bear witness to his passion, death and resurrection, all of which he accomplished for the redemption of our humanity.

We are all of us aware of the spiritual significance of Jerusalem for Christians, especially for our own people, whom we are representing here. As we are confronted by so many challenges today, so we must re-double our efforts to maintain the Holy Places as spiritual oases for our local Christian population as well as for the thousands of pilgrims who come to us from all corners of the world.  May we never tire of this duty and this privilege.

We thank you for your greetings to us, and we pray that the light and joy of the resurrection may illumine the path before us all.

Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!

His Beatitude

THEOPHILOS III,

Patriarch of Jerusalem

 




ADDRESS AT THE EVENT ANNOUNCING THE WINNERS OF THE WORLD INTERFAITH HARMONY WEEK PRIZE AT THE BAPTISMAL SITE.

25-4-2013

Your Royal Highnesses,

Eminences and Excellencies,

Reverend Fathers, Distinguished guests,

We are pleased to be here with Our fellow judges for the first ever award ceremony of World Interfaith Harmony Week, which is being held under the patronage of His Majesty King Abdullah II. As a religious leader We bring with Us blessed greetings from Jerusalem, the Holy City of peace and reconciliation, for it is there that Heaven met with Earth; and it is there that our Abrahamic faiths, through constant prayer, have achieved harmony. We have gathered here today to celebrate diversity and harmony through different faiths. Here, Ourselves and Our fellow judges wish to convey our gratitude for the efforts of His Royal Highness Prince Ghazi bin Muhammad in taking this initiative, and to His Majesty King Abdullah II for introducing the world to a dialogue of harmony between faiths, which was adopted unanimously by the United Nations, just 3 years ago.

Speaking at the United Nations Headquarters in New York, His Majesty outlined the main goals of the “World Interfaith Harmony Week”. The initiative was to recognize the moral imperative of promoting and understanding the values of peace inherent in all religions. All faiths can be joined by their love of God and love of neighbor. By building on such values common to all religions, “World interfaith Harmony Week” was to become a platform that connected faiths, addressing the urgent need to enhance mutual understanding, cooperation and harmony.

The official U.N. Resolution set out the criteria for “World Interfaith Harmony Week”. Among these were:

 1. To reaffirm that mutual understanding and interreligious dialogue constitute important dimensions of a culture of peace.

2. The first week of February of every year will be reserved for “World Interfaith Harmony Week” between all religions, faiths and beliefs.

 3. The initiative will encourage all states to support, on a voluntary basis, the spread of the message of interfaith harmony and goodwill in the world’s churches, mosques, synagogues, temples and other places of worship during that week, based on love of God and love of one’s neighbor.

The candidates who have been selected today for their distinction have gathered, from all over the world and from all faiths, in our blessed Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, the cross roads of great civilizations. The candidates’ achievements have demonstrated the dynamic and potent power of interfaith relations and how, through dialogue we attain to Harmony which is the embodiment of cooperation, mutual understanding and respect that are common attributes inherent to the very essence of religion.

Our physical presence here by the Baptismal Site, where the sacred history was revealed and handed down to us through Holy Scriptures and where Jesus Christ was baptized, bears witness to our common humanity and its destiny to “theosis”; that is our unity with God. Furthermore, The Baptism Site together with Bethlehem and Jerusalem constitutes its own part of a nation of interfaith harmony; where the Abrahamic faiths were destined to live in peace and understanding.

Though we are destined to live in harmony, interfaith peace is indeed a challenge worldwide. It is precisely for this reason that all efforts to bring our faiths closer together must be acknowledged. This year’s celebrations of “World Interfaith Harmony Week” saw more than 300 events held the world over, celebrating not only Islamo-Christian relations but the richness of dialogue with other faiths, from Judaism and Buddhism to Sikhism.

It is with great honour that we invite you to join us in celebrating the announcement of this year’s recipients of the “World Interfaith Harmony” prize. Thank you.

His Beatitude

THEOPHILOS III,

Patriarch of Jerusalem

 




REMARKS AT THE KYIV INTERFAITH FORUM’S INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE ON FAITH’S ROLE IN STATE, GOVERNMENT AND POLITICS.

Kiev, 23 April 2013

 

Esteemed Mr. Feldman,

Distinguished Members of this Conference,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Once again it is an honour for us to be present at this international conference and as we begin our work to be able to say a few words on the role of religion and faith in our modern society. This is a crucial subject as we seek to build human communities around the world in which there is lasting peace, true justice, and authentic co-existence.

We would like to make three brief points.

The first point we wish to emphasize is that the religious impulse lies at the heart of our human condition. Time and time again it has been proven that the homo religiosus -that is, the inherent drive in human beings towards the transcendent and to eternal meaning – has survived and flourished throughout every other change in and challenge to human civilization. Indeed recently we have been hearing, in our modern technological idiom, that human beings are “hardwired” for belief in God. Religion is natural to us, and, as those who are made in the image and likeness of God, we are constantly seeking our true eternal home.

We know that all human cultures are formed at their core by religion. So total is this formation of human culture, both at the individual and at the collective levels that those who have attempted to suppress or destroy religion have failed utterly. While it is true that in some cases one religion has successfully replaced another in a given culture, in no case have we ever witnessed a completely religion-less human society. And indeed, in those societies in which religion was fairly recently taboo, we have seen the resurgence of religious, belief and practice in unprecedented ways.

The second point that we wish to make is this. Because of the fact that the religious impulse is fundamental to human society, it can be a powerful force for good, or it can be a powerful weapon for evil. Religion is meant to serve Cod and to promote Cod’s will for God’s human creation. God is both the supreme Good and the absolute Beauty, and whatever is from God, therefore, is perfect and for our good.

But we know too well from our own experience that people can easily take religion into their own hands and use it to their own ends. In precisely this way are religious fundamentalisms and religious terrorism born, and because this is such a profound misdirection of the homo religiosus, it is therefore a most serious threat to human civilization. We cannot allow religion to be the tool of destruction or the reason for violence. This is not religion, and we who represent our respective traditions must be ever vigilant to condemn such acts and explanations. Religion serves the common good and our common humanity.

At its most creative – in other words, in its deepest reflection of the life of God – religion engenders in us a deep mutual respect for the other, and for each other’s religious experience, We come from different religious traditions here, but each of our traditions shares an understanding of what it means to be in relationship to God in prayer and worship, to be knit together in a community of shared values and beliefs, and to ask ourselves questions of appropriate response to the truths we profess. This is the shared ground from which we begin together to build a human future in which we can live together in mutual respect and in the richness of our diversity.

The third and final point we wish to make concerns Jerusalem. The land that we call the Holy Land is the home of the three great Abrahamic faiths that make up, together, the largest religious group in the world. Jews, Christians and Muslims not only share a region that is of supreme importance to us; we also share a deep inter-connectedness.

In the Holy Land, there is no doubt about the truth of all that we have been saying in these brief opening remarks this morning. Religion determines everything in our region, and it is not possible either to ignore religion, or to be dismissive of its determinative role in our life.

Jerusalem is a paradox. On the one hand it has been a place of conflict. We know this only too well. On the other hand, Jerusalem has also been the model of a community in which those of different religious, ethnic and cultural backgrounds have lived together. And in all three Abrahamic traditions, Jerusalem is the city of hope, the image of that divine society in which all may live together in peace and harmony.

We wish to thank you, my dear Mr. Feldman, the founder of this Forum, for your vision and for bringing us together, so that we may take to heart matters that are both at the centre of every human conflict that is currently raging in our world, and that are also at the centre of the resolution to those conflicts. This conference owes its origin to your commitment to the eradication of any form of bigotry and prejudice in your own country and around the world.

May we all be agents of the deepest values of our respective religious traditions, so that the world may know that peace of God “which passes all understanding”, (Phil. 4:7) and which is the longing of every human heart.

Thank you.

His Beatitude

THEOPHILOS III

Patriarch of Jerusalem.