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ADDRESS OF GREETING TO THE HONORABLE BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE U.S.A.

Bethlehem, 22 March 2013.

Mr. President,

The city of Bethlehem, the City of Peace, welcomes you today in this holy Church of the Nativity – the place where heaven and earth met, and where peace and reconciliation between God and humanity, as well as among human beings, took on our human flesh in Jesus Christ.

Here therefore we remember the words that announced to the shepherds:

“ Glory to Cod in the highest heaven, and on earth peace, goodwill among all people!” (Luke 2:14).

 To this City of Peace, where for generations Christians and Muslims have lived together as one people, we welcome you as a leader and as a messenger of peace and reconciliation. The people of our region long for peace and have invested their hope and trust in those who have the power to lead the world into a new age of peace for all. For “blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of Cod.” (Mt. 5:9)

And so we look to you, Mr. President, as the leader of a great and noble nation that promotes the ideals of peace, reconciliation, justice and democratic principles among all peoples. It was here that the ideal of peace and reconciliation became a human being; and so it is fitting that from here you may gain strength and wisdom for the task ahead.

As the Patriarch of Jerusalem, on behalf of the Palestinian community, made up of Christians and Muslims, we extend to you the assurance of our best wishes and encouragement. And we pray that the King of Peace and Justice, who was born in this very holy place, may grant to you and to the Government of the United States, perseverance and vision in your work of governing.

We also wish to acknowledge the efforts and the commitment of His Excellency, President Mahmoud Abbas, in the cause of peace and co-existence in our region, and the resolution of an independent future for the Palestinian people.

In remembrance of your visit, Mr. President, would you please accept these symbolic gifts with the blessings of the Holy Land. And we look forward to seeing you when we come to Washington.

Thank you.

His Beatitude

THEOPHILOS III

Patriarch of Jerusalem




ADDRESS AT THE FESTIVE SEASON CELEBRATION OF THE JERUSALEM MUNICIPALITY.

Holy City of Jerusalem, 30 January 2012

Mr. Mayor

Esteemed Members of the City Council,

Fellow Leaders of our Religious Ccommunities,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

In this holiday season, our hearts and minds are turned to that great promise that forms the origin of the Abrahamic traditions. This is the promise of peace. Peace is the foundation of the name of Jerusalem itself and the promise of our very destiny as a city.

Peace, we remember, is not simply the absence of conflict. Peace is a dynamic activity on the part of the human community and genuine peace rests on our shared values of mutual respect, justice and sincere co- existence. Without these characteristics, there may be an absence of conflict, but there will be no real peace in the sense that our religious traditions understand that God-given existence for which we were created.

We must not simply pray for peace – the peace of Jerusalem and the peace of our region and our world. We must turn our prayers into action and inhabit peace, a peace that is robust enough to embrace the rich diversity of the human family, a diversity that finds its destiny in our Creator.

Recently we were in London to visit the Hill House International Junior School, where we saw a multi-cultural and multi-faith community in action. The pupils of the school are taught the values of mutual respect and co- existence from an early age. They learn about each other’s faiths, cultures and histories. They form friendships for a lifetime across racial, ethnic and religious lines. They learn what they share a common humanity and a common human destiny that unite them at a deeper lever than any differences of gender, religion, national origin or intellectual interest and ability.

It is the vocation of the unique spiritual character of Jerusalem to be the model for all of just this sort of informed, respectful multy- cultural and multi- religious co-existence. In the Greek language there is this splendid word symphonia – a concept of human community in which all our diverse voices are brought together not in cacophony but in harmony for the well- being of all.

In our Christmas and Epiphany feastes we experienced this harmony of diverse voices when we celebrated the epiphany in Jordan river. There were borh pilgrims of all nationalities and local faithful as well ad members of other faiths from nearby communities . Τhere was a great spirit of joy.

Yet we must re- double our efforts. Of course there will be challenges but these challenges must not discourage us or be an excuse for giving up. Rather they must urge us on to the work before us. This festive season of peace and light is a living reminder also of our responsibility in working to being genuine peace and symphonia to birth even in Jerusalem, the City of Peace and co- existence.

As the followers of our Abrahamic traditions and as civic and religious leaders, our mission together is to maintain this city as the city for all the spiritual descendants of Abraham. As we do this, we allow the divine light and justice that shine from Jerusalem to be a beacon of living hope to an anguished and hurting world.

As Saint Paul says in his letter to the Romans.

We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labour pains until now and not only the creation but we ourselves who have the first fruits of the Spirit groan inwardly while we wait for adoptions the redemption of our bodies’ (Rom. 8:22-23).

May the blessings of this festive season fill our hearts and minds and may God, the Lord of Peace, Light and Justice, give us the courage and wisdom to build a genuine and lasting peace for the sake of our beloved Holy Land and for our whole region of the Middle East.

Thank you.

His Beatitude

THEOPHILOS III

Patriarch of Jerusalem




CONGRATULATORY SPEECH UPON THE ELECTION OF H.B. ARCHBISHOP NURHAN MANOUGIAN, ARMENIAN PATRIARCH.

Your Beatitude,

Upon Your election by the Brotherhood of St. James, kindly accept Our congratulations on behalf of Our Brotherhood of the Holy Tomb and Our community, from Our Mediocrity.

We assure Your Beatitude of Our prayers as You prepare to assume Your pastoral ministry and Patriarchal responsibilities.

We trust that Our co-operation as guardians and servants of the Holy Places and as spiritual leaders of Our respective communities in Jerusalem and the Holy Land will continue to bear witness to Our Christian faith and cultural heritage.

Invoking upon Your Beatitude Our Lord Jesus Christ’s grace and the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit We again congratulate and wish You every success.

With love in Christ,

His Beatitude,

THEOPHILOS III

Patriarch of Jerusalem




GREETINGS TO THE ARMENIAN PATRIARCHATE FOR THE FEAST OF THE NATIVITY ACCORDING TO THE ARMENIAN CALENDAR.

Jerusalem, 21 January 2013

Your Eminence Archbishop Aris, Patriarchal Locum Tenens,
Your Eminences,
Reverend Fathers,
Members of the Brotherhood of Saint James,
Dear Brothers in Christ,

We are glad to be here today to congratulate you on your celebration of the Feast of the Nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ and of the great and ineffable mystery of his Epiphany, which you also keep at this time. On this occasion we recall the beautiful words of a great saint of the Armenian Church, Sain Nersess Lampbronatsi, who in a prayer to the Only-Begotten Son said:
O Christ, for our sake you became bearer of sin that we may become righteous for you.
For our sake you became earthly that we may become heavenly. For our sake you became bread that we, by partaking of you, may be sanctified.

You are hope. You are light. You are life. You are forgiveness itself. You are, indeed, immortality.
We join with you today in exultation at the birth and baptism of the One who is hope, light and life for the world, and we remember also the stirring words of our predecessor Patriarch Sophronios, who said of the Feast of the Epiphany:
For today the time for feasting has come.

Today the grace of the Holy Spirit, in the form of a dove, came upon the waters. Today the uncreated One is by His own will touched by the creature.
Today the waters of the Jordan are turned into healing by the presence of the Lord. Today all creation is watered by mystical waters. Today our sins are washed away in the waters of the Jordan. Today Paradise is thrown open to humankind and the sun of righteousness shines upon us. Today the water that the people under Moses found bitter, is turned into sweetness at the Lord’s presence.

Today the heavenly joins the earthly in celebration and that which is below holds discourse with that which is above.
It is this joyful spirit of the Nativity and the Epiphany that we are here to greet you, Your Eminence, the Brotherhood of Saint James and the entire Armeninan community of the Holy Land.
We would also like to take this opportunity to assure you and the Brotherhood of our fervent prayers for the upcoming meeting of your Holy Synod this week. We pray that, guided by the Holy Spirit, you may choose a fit and worthy Patriarch to succeed His Beatitude Patriarch Tarkoom of blessed memory. We do not need to tell you of the serious responsibility that is ours as the Brotherhoods to whom the guardianship of the Holy Places has been entrusted. Our ecclesiastical and spiritual leadership is crucial for our mission to ensure the Christian character of Jerusalem and to encourage the Christian community of the Middle East. We need look no further than to our neighbor Syria and the crisis and horrible bloodshed there to have a visible and disturbing reminder of the urgency of the task before us.

We must make a firm resolve. Let us come to our senses. Our unity of purpose in this mission must be at the heart of our life as those who call Jerusalem our home. And as we are faithful to our God- given responsibilities together, we shall show forth the glory of God the glory of the Churches and the glory of this Holy City, Jerusalem.
Thank you for this opportunity to greet you. May God bless you, the Brotherhood of Saint James, and the Armenian community of the Holy Land in this festive Nativity season.

His Beatitude
THEOPHILOS  III
Patriarch of Jerusalem




RESPONSE TO THE CHRISTMAS GREETINGS OF THE DELEGATION OF THE ARMENIAN PATRIARCHATE.

GREEK ORTHODOX PATRIARCHATE,  11 January2013

 

Your Eminence Archbishop Aris,

Locum Tenens,

Your Eminences,

Reverend Fathers,

Dear Members of our Respective Brotherhoods,

“Christ is born! Glorify Him!”

We welcome you warmly to the Patriarchate in this Holy Season, and we thank you for your greetings as we celebrate the Feast of the Nativity of our Lord, Jesus Christ. At this time of the year especially, when we celebrate the birth of the Prince of Peace, the world looks to the Holy Land in hope, where “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding,” becomes incarnate and lives among us, (cf. Phil. 4:7).

Our Brotherhoods have been blessed with the task and mission in our beloved Holy Land of caring for and serving the Holy Places. By extension this places on our shoulders the mantle of being guardians of the Christian character of Jerusalem and the Holy Land. The Christian community is native to our region and essential to the integrity of the cultural diversity of the Holy Land, and we are witnesses to this.

It is acknowledged by all, both locally and internationally, in the civic as well as in the religious sphere, that the Churches have a unique power to ensure the well-being and the future of the Christian presence in the Holy Land, as long as we are united in our common mission, and especially, as long as we manage to keep our family disagreements internal to ourselves and solve them in fraternal dialogue.

Most recently we were able to show this to the world during the cleaning of the Church of the Nativity, where we showed that dialogue in private is better than conflict in public.

Today as never before, especially in the face of the deep uncertainty that we face in our region we, who bear such a significant responsibility must accept the task that is ours, and remember always that our togetherness reflects on the Christian community of the Holy Land as a whole. Our occasional family disputes should not be permitted to tarnish our mission, not must we ever forget the security and well-being of all Christians of the Middle East. They are our concern, for they have been entrusted to us by Cod as their bishops and pastors.

As we welcome you today, we know that you are preparing for the election of a new Patriarch to succeed the late Patriarch Tarkoom of blessed memory. We assure you of our fervent prayers for your Brotherhood at this time, that Cod may provide for you a fitting and worthy new Patriarch and Superior of the Brotherhood of Saint James and spiritual head of the Armenian community,

May Cod give us grace and bless us all, that we may be made worthy of the charge that has been entrusted to us.  And may the Incarnate Light that is born in the cave at Bethlehem on this Feast be the same light that is born in the cave of our hearts and minds, so that the world may see our good works and give glory to our Father in heaven, (cf. Mt 5:16).

We wish you a blessed Feast of the Nativity and a peaceful New Year.

“Christ is born! Glorify him!”

Thank you.

 His Beatitude

Theophilos III

Patriarchate of Jerusalem

 




RESPONSE TO THE GREETINGS OF THE HEADS OF THE CHURCHES AT THE FEAST OF THE NATIVITY.

Holy City of Jerusalem, 9 January 2013.

 

Your Beatitude,

Your Excellency,

Your Grace,

Your Eminences,

Reverend Fathers,

Dear Pastors,

Beloved Brothers and Sisters,

Christ is born! Glorify Him!

We welcome you with the joy of this Holy Season and we thank you for your greetings for the Feast of the Nativity. In the birth of the incarnate Logos, our Lord Jesus Christ, from the All-Pure Mother of God, the Blessed Virgin Mary, we celebrate once again the triumph of light over darkness, truth over falsehood, and goodness over evil.

We celebrate the Nativity of Christ once again at a time of ongoing, and deepening, uncertainty and difficulty for our region, especially in Syria. The political and social situation in which we are living in the Middle East makes our proclamation of the Gospel all the more urgent, and it makes our co-operation as Christians the more crucial.

Our peoples and our region are desperate for spiritual leadership and for the hope that the incarnate Lord brings. For the Nativity of Christ is not an event of the past; it is an event that is taking place today. As we sing in our Liturgy:

Today the Virgin gives birth to the Transcendent One,

And the earth offers a cave to the Unapproachable One!

(Kontakion for the Nativity)

We must not forget, too, that the world watches us at this season with a careful and expectant eye.

In one of his letters, which he wrote in the year 368, Saint Basil the Great praised the recently deceased Bishop Musonius of Neocaesarea. Saint Basil said of Bishop Musonius that during his life he had been “a pillar of his homeland, an ornament of the churches, a pillar and support of the truth, a bastion of faith in Christ, the protector of his friends… [and] a guardian of ancestral laws.” (Saint Basil Letters, 28:1).

May the same be said of us as Christian bishops and leaders. More than ever before we are called to live in the Light of the Eternal Son of Cod. For our struggle in maintaining our Christian presence in our region “is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the cosmic powers of this present darkness of evil in the heavenly places.” (Eph. 6:12). As St Paul says, we must “keep alert, stand firm in [our] faith, be courageous, be strong”, “doing everything in love” for the sake of the Holy Places of which we are guardians and servants (cf. 1 Cor. 13). This is the vocation of us all, members of our respective fraternities, as well as those of us who are bishops and pastors.

As Saint Basil said of Bishop Musonius, we must be “bastions of faith In Christ” those who so overflow with “the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God the Father, and the communion of the Holy Spirit,” that all may see beyond us and our inadequate ministrations a glimpse of heaven.   For at Christmas heaven comes down to earth.

We should never forget that we are first and foremost a liturgical community, and our celebration of the Feast of the Nativity in Bethlehem, inspires and makes real for all our people, as well as for so many pilgrims, the eternal and spiritual truths of the Incarnation. It is our privilege here in the Holy Land to express the true ecumenical spirit: the power of our unity rests in our spiritual and cultural diversity. This diversity is the true strength of our togetherness.

At this great Feast, may we join our voices, from the land of the justice and philanthropia of Cod that is Bethlehem, and the land of the hope and resurrection of God that is Jerusalem, in an appeal to all in authority to give their tireless efforts to work to stop the bloodshed of innocent people, to alleviate poverty, to clothe the naked, and give succor to widows and the orphaned around the world.

We pray to our newly-born Saviour Jesus Christ, that he may be born in the cave of our hearts today. May the true Light that is born into the world on this Feast be the same light that is reflected in us, so that the World may see our good works and give glory to our Father in heaven (cf. Mt. 5;16).

Christ is born! Glorify Him!

We wish you all a blessed and peaceful New Year-

Thank you” .

His Beatitude

Theophilos III,

Patriarch of Jerusalem




REMARKS FOR THE VISIT OF H.H. THE MAYOR OF JERUSALEM TO THE PATRIARCHATE OF JERUSALEM.

Holy City of Jerusalem, 3 January 2013

 

Mr Mayor,

Your Eminences,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

 

We are very glad to welcome you, Mr. Mayor, and your colleagues to Our Patriarchate during this festive season and in the first days of this New Year. This is a period of hope, peace and reconciliation for us all.  It is in this spirit that we greet you today.

As the oldest continuous institution in the Holy Land, the Patriarchate is an integral part of community life in Jerusalem. The Patriarchate is a living witness to the fact that the Christian community is native to this region. We are part not just of past history; we are also bound up with the well-being and true identity of the current and future life and development of Jerusalem and the Holy Land.

This is clearly evident to those who share Our common history within Our Holy City and Our Holy Land at large. The legitimacy and role of Our Patriarchate of Jerusalem has long been inscribed and recognized regionally and globally; not least by the existing heritage of the “Status Quo”. In fact, these realities are amassing increasing visibility among all those beyond our borders who care for and long for peace, stability, security and genuine co-existence.

As the guardians and servants of major and preeminent Holy Places, the Patriarchate is upheld as essential to the sacredness of the City and its history. It is not an exaggeration to say that the Patriarchate is the beacon that draws thousands of pilgrims a year to the Holy Land. In this respect the Patriarchate underscores the freedom of access to the Holy Places not only for Christians, but also for Jews, Muslims and all people of good will. The Patriarchate is especially conscious of the large number of pilgrims who come here from Eastern European and Balkan countries, like Russia, the Ukraine, Romania and Serbia.

In this mission, the Patriarchate enjoys the respect and support of all, both in our region and around the world.   In upholding our spiritual and moral values, we are accepted as the primate among the Churches in our commitment to reconciliation, peace and co-existence. We seek always nothing more or less than our legitimate heritage stemming from the sacred history of the Holy Land along with the rights and freedoms that enable us to carry out our Cod-given mission.

As we mark the New Year 2013 as well as Our own Christmas celebrations according to the Julian calendar, we wish to express to you, Mr. Mayor and your administration, our sincere appreciation for all that you are doing to ensure the genuine ethnic and religious diversity of our city, and not least your support for the Patriarchate. Needless to say that for countless generations we have been a strong and firm builder of harmonious co-existence between followers of Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

Being prudent not to enter into the temptation of isolationist thought and action, which can be distracting, We rather let the spirit of true co-operation and collaboration thrive between us in this New Year, so that we may serve all those committed to our care, and show to the world that Jerusalem is indeed the city of peace and living religious and cultural diversity.

May Cod bless you, Mr. Mayor, in your work on behalf of all the peoples of Our beloved Jerusalem.

Happy and Blessed New Year,

Thank you.

 

His Beatitude

Theophilos III

Patriarch of Jerusalem




H.B. ADDRESS TO THE PRESIDENT OF ISRAEL & MEMBERS OF THE GOVERMENT IN THE OCCASION OF THE NEW YEAR.

31 December 2012

 Mr President,

Honourable Ministers,

Members of Parliament,

Your Eminences,

Dear Reverend Fathers,

Distinguished Guests,

 

“If any of you are qualified to be enrolled in our bodyguard, let them be enrolled, and let there be peace among us, (1 Mac. 13:40)

At the turn of the year, we greet you warmly in this season of renewal and hope, and we thank you for this opportunity to make these few remarks.

Events and gatherings such as this are of great importance both for celebrating the common bonds of our humanity, and for reminding ourselves of those fundamental values that are essential to our common life.

We are honored to be here with our fellow citizens of Jerusalem, and on behalf of the Christian Churches, the communities of Jerusalem, and all people of faith and good will, we extend our best wishes to you and to the people of Israel for the New Year.

The Christian presence is part and parcel of the history of this region, and the ongoing life of the Churches ensures the sacred uniqueness of Jerusalem and the religious character of the Holy Land as a whole. Our region bears witness to the Abrahamic religions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, and is a living testimony to inclusiveness, and, most importantly, to ethnic and religious diversity.

Our continued mission of being the Mother Church of the Holy Land, in fraternal relationship with our brothers and sisters of other Churches, strengthens our singular historical presence.  Along with other Churches, the

Patriarchate of Jerusalem serves and safeguards the Holy Places and consequently we also serve and secure the Christian presence both in our region and in the wider Middle East.

New realities are emerging from the unpredictable political and socio-economic developments of our region. There is a clear need and desire for our experience to be both an anchor and a paradigm for this future that is in the making before our eyes. We in the Holy Land have a moral obligation to present to the rest of the region a path that leads to genuine freedom of religion, inter-religious engagement, and mutual respect, for we have a heritage of living and working together that is generations old. It is not an exaggeration to claim that the future of our world is inextricably bound up with the future that we build in the Holy Land for all our people.

Our shared history has taught us that the road to peace is a dynamic process, that is to say, that it is not through violence, but through dialogue. It is dialogue that builds trust and mutual acceptance, and that shows us the way forward. Time and again we say that we condemn violence wherever it occurs, and the Patriarchate as well as the other Churches work whole-heartedly to build a lasting peace and security to which everyone, regardless of religious affiliation or cultural identity, is entitled.

Peace itself, the peace of which this Festive Season speaks and which we are all called to make, is not a single act. Peace involves the whole attitude and aspect of individuals, communities, and nations. It is a peace with and within the self, it is a peace with the whole created order, and it is a peace with one’s fellow human beings. This sort of peace, which is in our Abrahamic traditions a reflection of the Divine, will always involve our complete, even sacrificial commitment. To paraphrase Saint Paul in the First Letter to the Corinthians, we can say this peace is a cause of our boasting (cf.1 Cor. 9:15). For genuine peace to flourish we must lay aside every form of selfishness and fear. We must, as it is said in the Greek Scriptures, outdo one another in kenosis – in emptying ourselves for the sake of others.

The legitimate rights, privileges and the ancient customs of the Church and our communities, sanctioned by sacred history, must not be disregarded, for they constitute an integral part of the living communities of this Holy Land and beyond.

As difficult as it is to articulate, we cannot hide our concern at the attitude of certain groups that take the law into their own hands with the sole purpose to cause confusion and disturbance to the harmonious co-existence to which we all aspire.

Mr President, we commend you highly in your courageous position against sacrilegious acts that have been directed against the sacred gift of freedom of worship that we enjoy in our Holy Land. Your actions and stance in condemning strongly all forms of bigotry and prejudice against places of worship, be they Jewish, Christian, or Muslim, is a clear example for all leaders to follow.

With such great efforts in building bridges of genuine rapprochement between our various communities, together we can work to inspire trust not only within our Christian community as whole but also with non-Christian communities as well. Be it access to the Holy Places, ease of travel for the clergy, and the relationship between our Church communities and civic and governmental offices, we have every confidence that these matters can be enhanced and taken into serious consideration.

Your Excellency, on behalf of all our Christian brothers and sisters, we thank you for your cordial invitation and your courteous hospitality. We pray God’s grace upon the approaching New Year: may the Divine Spirit of this Festive Season enlighten our minds, warm our hearts,  and lead us all to work diligently for the fulfillment of the lives of all the citizens of the State of Israel.

For “without faith it is impossible to please God, whoever would approach him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him” (Hebrews 11:6).

We wish you, Mr. President, and all the people of our beloved City and Holy Land the blessings of this season and a peaceful New Year.

Thank you.

 

His Beatitude

Theophilos III

Patriarch of Jerusalem

 




H.B. ADDRESS TO THE RECEPTION OF THE ISRAELI MINISTRY OF TOURISM FOR CHRISTMAS & NEW YEAR.

Holy City of Jerusalem, 17 of December 2012.

“Your Excellency,

Fellow Heads of Churches Brothers and Sisters,

Honourable Guests,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

There is no doubt that the Holy Land in general and Jerusalem in particular are the sacred place that we hold so dearly to our hearts. We all share the common belief in this sacredness and cherish it in our souls. We are honoured and consider ourselves privileged to serve in this great city and larger region.

In witness, Jerusalem is shared by the three Abrahamic faiths, that is to say Judaism, Christianity and Islam. In this respect it is unique and positioned to belong to the whole world. Thus it can be further said that Jerusalem is inclusive not only to the Abrahamic faiths but to all faiths and beliefs.

We in our capacity as religious leaders, do encourage the various peoples of the world to come and visit this Holy Land. We encourage them to come and partake in Jerusalem’s experience of spirituality as well as participate in its religiosity.

We would like to commend all those who helped organise this gathering and We extend our thanks for this cordial invitation. We wish you a very Merry Christmas and a blessed New Year.

Thank you”.

His Beatitude

THEOPHILOS III,

Patriarch of Jerusalem.




H.B. SPEECH: “REMARKS ON THE MEANING & INTEGRITY OF THE HOLY PLACES”.

Haifa, 15 October 2012

 

Your Excellency, Mr. President, Distinguished Fellow Religious Leaders, Ladies and Gentlemen,

“Jacob said… ‘Surely the Lord is in this place… How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven. “, (Gen. 28:16-17).

We to whom the joy, the privilege and the responsibility have been given to live in the Holy Land are the guardians and the servants of both sacred history and of a God-given heritage. This is a history and a heritage that belong to no one people or tradition exclusively, but to the whole of humanity.

The unique circumstances of the co-existence of Jew, Christian, and Muslim in our region are the necessary sign to the world that the Holy Land is the home of every human heart, and the sum of ail human longing.

There can be no doubt of the love that we who live here have for this land and for the Holy Places that are the tangible evidence to us that God has chosen to dwell among us. For in this Holy Land, each of us can say with the patriarch Jacob, “This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.”

We have Holy Places that are special to our respective communities of faith, and which we hold in special devotion. And there are Holy Places that we share, for in the sacred history of this region there are many ties that bind us.

Whether the Holy Sites are specific to our respective traditions, or whether they are shared among us, they demand from us all equal attentiveness and protection. We dwell together in this land, Jew, Christian and Muslim, and in consequence we share a common destiny: what affects one community affects us all, for good or ill.

The Holy Places remind us that our region can never be a place of simple tourism. It has always been, and must always continue to be, a place of genuine pilgrimage. Even the casual visitor does not leave unaffected by the Holy Places.   Here there is still the breaking in of God into our human existence; here countless people of faith, as well as those of goodwill who profess no particular faith, come face to face with eternity, and are changed.

We know, Mr. President, of your care for and support of all the peoples of the Holy Land, and your commitment to respectful, peaceful co-existence. As we have faced recent and disturbing desecrations of Holy Sites recently, we urge you to do all in your power and in the power of the authorities, to support the communities who are the guardians and the servants of all our Holy Sites.

The hearts and minds of all our peoples are shaped by the strength of our leadership in both civic and religious life, and we know of your concern for the integrity of the precious heritage of our beloved Holy Land. The world looks to the Holy Land in hope, and in ensuring the well-being of our Holy Sites, we allow the divine light that shines from our land to reach the whole human family.

May God bless us all as we seek to be faithful to our callings. Thank you.

His Beatitude

THEOPHILOS  III

Patriarch of Jerusalem.