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

02 February 2011,

Your Royal Highness, Prince Ghazi Bin Mohammad Bin Talal

Honourable and Distinguished Guest,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you.

His Beatitude THEOPHILOS III

Patriarch of Jerusalem




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

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

“Your Beatitude, Your Eminence,

Reverend Brothers of the Saint James Brotherhood,

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you.

Blessed, prosperous and peaceful the New Year!”.




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

Jerusalem, 26 January 2011.

Your Excellency, Mr Barkat, Mayor of Jerusalem,

Honorable Members of the Municipal Government,

Distinguished Guest,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

His Beatitude

Theophilos III

Patriarch of Jerusalem.




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

25 January 2011

Your Eminences,

Your Graces,

Dear Fathers,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy and Blessed New Year.

His Beatitude

Theophilos III

Patriarch of Jerusalem




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

“Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

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

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

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

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

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

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

Christ is born, Blessed and Happy New Year”.

Jerusalem, 10-1-2011.

His Beatitude

THEOPHILOS III

Patriarch of Jerusalem

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HIS BEATITUDE THEOPHILOS’ III, SPEECH BEFORE THE PRESIDENT OF ISRAEL FOR THE NEW YEAR 2011.

Mr President,

Honourable Ministers,

Members of Parliament,

Distinguished Guests,

“Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; behold, a virgin shall conceive in the womb, and shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Emmanuel”. (Isaiah 7:14)

We are highly appreciative of what is a traditional gathering in which we share the Season’s cheerfulness, in particular the Christmas spirit, and impart our messages of hope. Events and gatherings such as this are of great significance both for celebrating the common bonds of our humanity, and for reminding ourselves of those fundamental moral values that are essential to our common life.   Humanity today is confronted and confused on every side with dark forces of disrespect and even humiliation.   And unfortunately much of this is being done in the pretence of religious allegiance and in the name of Almighty God.

As we are here today in a clear expression and manifestation of inter-religious and inter-cultural understanding, presence and symbiosis, it should be acknowledged that any form of polarization; political, social or ideological, have increasingly posed a serious challenge to our humble efforts and our sincere intentions.

We are thankful to the Authorities’ efforts in facilitating the access for pilgrims and worshipers that has enhanced a great number of Christian pilgrims from around the world.   We commend them to continue this holy and important provision;   and allow us to say: “more can always be done” on the local and regional frame.    Also we acknowledge the many positive steps that the State of Israel has taken to evaluate our concerns, and we stress the need for the continuation of progress on:

  • Continued free movement of the faithful;
  • Availability of entry visas for clerics; and
  • Honouring the privileges of Tax exemption sanctioned by the sacred history as well as by the historic standing of the “Ownership of Church Property”.

The ineffective endeavours to attaining peace should not be disregarded this festive season.    This should be a reminder amidst our joyful celebrations that God’s will is loud and clear for both the political and religious leadership to persevere in our commitment to reaching reconciliation and peace.

It is our mission, as servants of the Lord and thus of our fellow man, to relentlessly enhance our efforts for improving the living and socio-economic conditions in which people of the Holy Land are passing through and to alleviating the suffering of all affected.   We are confronted with challenges and raised concerns for our communities over peaceful coexistence and we feel the urgency to address this, diffuse it and channel the positive outcome to achieving peace.

We are cautious about the rising negative sentiments fuelled by extremists and appeal for the fact that we consider all humans as equal to one another. A perception substantiated in the monotheistic faiths and upheld by the many decent citizens who also feel threatened by the moral decline witnessed today.

Christian institutions and Leadership, in the Holy land, have committed themselves by employing their blessings and resources in constituting peace and reconciliation in the region; for we firmly believe that this enjoins one of the divine commandments of our faith which solidifies our existence and determines our mission.

Our fraternal noble wishes for this happy occasion on the New Year to all Jews, Christians and Muslims, who persistently pursued peace during times of great turmoil, as they set a role model for all those who are inspired by the true and historic prophetic message of the incarnation of the divine logos.

As the custodians and servants of the Holy Places that bare testimony to the sacred history of redemption and salvation of human kind, we time and again commit ourselves to promoting peace and invite every human being to “soul searching”; in order to recognize the other’s entitlement to peace, respect and dignity; and we should always remember to behave in the same way as we would like people to behave towards us.    For it is written: “… whatever you want man to do to you do also to them for this is the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 7:12)

Your Excellency, we express our sincere thanks to you for this cordial invitation and for your gracious hospitality.   We pray God for his special blessing upon the approaching New Year:  may the Divine spirit of this Festive Season warm our hearts, enlighten our minds, and fulfil the lives of all the citizens of the State of Israel.   Happy New Year   and   Hanoucha Samech.

For, as prophet Isaiah says: “…. unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder.  His name will be called the Angel of Great Counsel, for I shall bring peace upon the rulers, peace and health by Him. Great shall be His government, and of Hispeace there is no end….” (Isaiah 9:6&7).

His Beatitude

Theophilos III

Patriarch of Jerusalem

29 December 2010




H.B. THEOPHILOS’ ADDRESS OF WELCOME TO H.B. METROPOLITAN SAWWA OF WARSAW AND ALL POLAND.

Your Beatitude,

We welcome you with great joy again to the Holy City of Jerusalem, to our Patriarchate and to our monastery in the name of our crucified and risen Lord, Jesus Christ!  Once again, let us say that your presence among us evokes happy remembrances of our recent visit to the Holy Polish Autocephalous Church, and we rejoice in the ever-deepening ties that bind the Polish Autocephalous Church with the Patriarch of Jerusalem, “the first-born of all the Churches.” These ties have received the great blessing of our con-celebration last night of the Divine Eucharist in which we demonstrated our witness to our unity in the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. The roots of Orthodoxy in Poland go deep. It was the great Saints Cyril and Methodios who first brought the Gospel to the region in the 9th century. It is in their footsteps that the Patriarchs of Jerusalem have followed and cared for the Orthodox faith, which has lived on in among your people, in good times as well as in challenging times. As we read in the Epistle to the Hebrews, “They were stoned to death, they were sawn in two, they were killed by the sword; they went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, persecuted, tormented- of whom the world was not worthy”, ( Hb. 11:37). Allow us to say that today, after almost a century since you took your place among the autocephalous Orthodox Churches of the world, you have emerged as a beacon of the light and the selfless love of Christ, of peace and reconciliation.

We can say this because during our fraternal visit to the Polish Orthodox Church, we became a witness of the breath and strength of your life and ministry. Your seven dioceses as well as your military chaplaincy, your flourishing monastic communities, your schools, and your centers for the care of the elderly and those in need, as well as Your Beatitude’s important influence both in Church and society, are an eloquent testimony not just to your common life, but to the witness of Orthodoxy in our modern world. In the work in promoting Orthodox culture and in your ministry to young people, you ensure the vitality of Orthodoxy in our society.

The Polish Orthodox Church lives out its life in a unique situation where the cultures of East and West meet. The concern of Poland for the deepening of relations between people of our different faiths and cultures, and especially with respect to the peoples of our region, is a great encouragement to us. As Orthodox Christians in Poland, in and through your fraternal relationship with the Patriarchate of Jerusalem, you have a unique way of demonstrating your concern on behalf of your government and people. Here we can see the importance of Orthodoxy in the international arena in a special way. And it is in this respect that the Orthodox Church maintains its genuine inclusiveness and openness.

The Orthodox Church values deeply its life of unity in diversity, its insistence on the dignity of the human person, and its witness to genuine inclusiveness and openness. Throughout our history, the Orthodox Church has stood firmly for peace in our region and for the well-being of the entire human family.

We celebrate today once again the historic relationship and the unity of faith that exist between our two sister Churches, and our common witness to the role of a living, vital Orthodoxy in our world. We give thanks to God for your primatial ministry, Your Beatitude, and we offer our fervent prayers for our brothers in the Polish episcopate, and for all your clergy and people.

May our risen Lord Jesus Christ richly bless your pilgrimage to the Holy Land, and may God bless all the people of your beloved country of Poland.

And we offer this toast for your Beatitude.

Thank you.

Jerusalem, 28 November 2010

His Beatitude Theophilos III

Patriarch of Jerusalem

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H.B. PATRIARCH THEOPHILOS ADDRESS AT THE MEETING WITH THE HONORABLE TARJA HALONEN, PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF FINLAND.

His Beatitude Theophilos III, Patriarch of Jerusalem

Helsinki, 13 September 2010

Your Excellency, Madame President,

Your Eminence, Archbishop Leo,

Your Eminence, Metropolitan Amvrosios,

Your Eminences,

Distinguished Civic and Governmental Leaders,

Dear Fathers,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is an honour for us to be received by you today, Madame President, and it has been a great joy for us to be in your beloved country on this, the first fraternal visitation of the Patriarchate of Jerusalem to the Finnish Orthodox Church. We have visited the Church’s many holy sites and historic churches, and we have been heartened by the devotion of the people and the active ministry of the Orthodox Church.

Christianity first came to Finland almost 1000 years ago, and your Christian history has helped to shape the unique character of the Finnish people. Indeed it was the notable Lutheran pastor of the New Testament in 1548, became known as “the father of the written Finnish language”.

Yet Finland is unique among the nations of the world in recognizing not one, but two established State Churches, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland and the Finnish Orthodox Church. This is a public recognition of the remarkable history of this nation and of two great Christian traditions that have shaped the life of the people.

In the course of the history of the last century, Finland has played a crucial role in the struggle of the nations, and in the survival of Orthodoxy in this region. Indeed the Finnish Orthodox Church has known within the intimacy of its own life something of the pain and difficulty of these wider international struggles. The monastery of New Valamo, which we visited last week, is but one shining testimony not simply to the determination of Orthodox believers, but also to the strength of the spirit of the Finnish people in the face of immense challenges.

But through the determination of many over the years, both in Church and State, the Finnish Orthodox Church has emerged from the position of a foreign jurisdiction to be a true local Orthodox Church of the Finnish people. The Church enjoys autonomous status under the omophorion of the Patriarch of Constantinople and worships in the Finnish language. It has its own monasteries and a seminary, its deepening unique spirituality, its beautiful musical tradition, and its growing list of significant Orthodox leaders, both among the clergy and the laity. We rejoice at the living witness of the Finnish Orthodox Church and its place in the world-wide Orthodox oikoumene, as well as in the special relationship that exists between the Finnish Orthodox Church and the Patriarchate of Jerusalem.

In recognition, therefore, of the Orthodox history of your country, and of the role of the Finnish Orthodox Church as a state Church, we desire to bestow upon you the Order of the Holy Sepulchre.

This Order is a sign of the special place that the Finnish Orthodox Church and all the people of Finland have in our heart, and of the fraternal affection that our visitation of the Finish Orthodox Church represents.

We pray that the warm personal ties that now bind the Finnish Orthodox Church with the Patriarchate of Jerusalem may continue to deepen. We look forward to the possibility of welcoming you, dear Madame President, to the Holy City of Jerusalem in due course, and we commit ourselves to the pastoral care of all Finnish people who come to the Holy Land on pilgrimage.

May God bless you, the government of this noble Republic, the Finnish Orthodox Church, and all the people of your nation, who are also dear to us.

Than you once again for your gracious welcome and reception.

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HIS BEATITUDE THEOPHILOS III ADDRESS AT THE DIVINE LITURGY AT THE USPENSKI CATHEDRAL IN HELSINKI.

His Beatitude Theophilos III, Patriarch of Jerusalem

12 September 2010

Your Eminence, Archbishop Leo,

Your Eminence, Metropolitan Ambrosios,

Your Eminences,

Dear Fathers of this Cathedral,

Respected Civic and Governmental Leaders,

Brothers and Sisters,

We come to this historic and holy church with deep joy, and we thank you, dear Metropolitan Ambrosios, for your brotherly welcome to concelebrate this Liturgy in your Cathedral. We also thank you, dear Archbishop Leo, for the warm hospitality that you have shown to us throughout our fraternal visitation of the Finnish Orthodox Church.

We also wish to acknowledge the presence of respected civic and governmental leaders here today. The Finnish Orthodox Church enjoys a special place in the life of the people of Finland, and shares with the Evangelical Lutheran Church the position of a national church. This is a proper acknowledgement of the role that the Orthodox Church has played in the history of this region, and we rejoice in the ability of the Finnish Orthodox Church to exercise its important ministry freely in this country.

This great Uspenski Cathedral is dedicated to the Dormition of the Mother of God. Founded in the middle of the 19th century, this church is said to be the largest Orthodox Church building in Western and Northern Europe, and it has shined as a beacon of hope in good times and in bad. As we celebrate this Liturgy today, we remember in our prayers all those who labored, and suffered, on behalf of all the people of this region in times of trouble and pressure. This holy church, itself an icon of heaven on earth, has been for many generations a sign of the enduring hope that is ours in God through Our Lord Jesus Christ, and through the prayers and protection of his All-pure Mother.

On the Feast of the Dormition of the Mother of God, which we celebrated only a few days ago at the end of August, we sang this hymn:

“She who is higher than the heavens and more glorious than the cherubim, she who is held in greater honour than all creation she, who by reason of her surpassing purity became the receiver of the everlasting Essence, today commends her most pure soul into the hands of her Son. With her all things are filled with joy, and she bestows great mercy upon us”.

With these words the hymn writer patriarch Anatolios describes the wondrous and paradoxical even of the Dormition. For “the source of life is laid in the tomb, and the tomb itself becomes a ladder to heaven”.

The apostles were gathered miraculously from the corners of the world to be present at the Virgin’s death and her empty tomb is a testament both to her natural death, and to her metastasis, her translation, into the hands of her Son. As we sing, “At the departing, O Virgin Mother of God, to him who was ineffably born of thee, James the first bishop and brother of the Lord was there, and so was Peter… and the whole sacred fellowship of the apostles”. As the successor of James, the Patriarch of Jerusalem is the living link to this sacred event, and as the continuation of the apostolic community, we Orthodox throughout the world represent in our own day this apostolic witness to the fullness of faith. And so we are able to participate in this Eucharist in this great cathedral in the salvific events of our sacred history.

The blessing of the Mother of God remains with us. From her was born the Incarnate Logos, the God –man who took on our own human life for the sake of destroying death and giving life to the whole creation. And through her witness, we receive the unblemished Orthodox faith in Our Lord Jesus Christ. She it was who entered into the mystery that had been hidden from the beginning of the ages, and so by her obedience she enables us also to share in this same divine inheritance. In this and every Eucharist, we too are caught up in the mystery of the Incarnation, of the union of heaven and earth of the promise of theosis.

For the Mother of God, her witness began from the moment that she conceived:“she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit”. (Mt,1:18). So the creative energy of the Holy Spirit moved in her, and we sing:

“In giving birth, O Mother of God, thou hast retained thy virginity, and in falling asleep thou hast not forsaken the world. Thou who art the Mother of Life hast passed over into life, and by thy prayers thou dost deliver our souls from death”.

Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the Theotokos and our God, confirmed his two natures by dying as man and rising as God. In the same way, the Mother of God was content to die according he law of nature so that the mystery of the divine oeconomia should not be seen by the unfaithful to be an illusion.

We are therefore invited, dear brothers and sisters to open our hearts to the divine oeconomia, to the salvation of God, and to lay our hope before the Mother of God, who is also our Mother. This Great cathedral, dedicated to her Dormition, stands as a reminder to us of the promises of God that are made known to us in her life, death and metastasis and that are our inheritance of faith. We, too, are shown the way to eternal life, and in this way we do not journey alone, but we journey in the company of the Virgin Mary and all the saints, whose presence surrounds us mystically here in this liturgical gathering.

Let us join our voices with the hymn writer and praise the Mother of Our Lord, Jesus Christ, and entrust ourselves to her prayers, saying:

“From all generations we call thee blessed, O Virgin Mother of God: for Christ who cannot be contained was pleased to be contained in thee. Blessed also are we in having thee as our succour:  for day and night thou dost intercede for us…Therefore, singing thy praises we cry aloud to thee: Hail,  thou who art full of grace, the Lord is with thee”.

As we return to the Holy Land, we carry with us affectionate remembrances of our days among you here in your beloved Finland. We pray that the ties that bind the Patriarchate of Jerusalem with the Finnish Orthodox Church and all the Finnish people will be strengthened in the years to come, and we look forward to welcoming you in pilgrimage to the Holy Places, and especially to Jerusalem, of course.

We thank you once again, Your Eminence, Archbishop Leo, our brother bishops in Finland and all the Orthodox faithful for the graciousness that you have shown us. And we express our deep gratitude to the President of Finland, the Honorable Tarja Halonen, and all the civic leaders who have so courteously welcomed us to this wonderful country.

May Christ our Lord, through the prayers of his All-Pure Mother, continue to bless this great country and all your people.

Amen.




H.B. SPEECH ON THE OCCASION OF THE COMMEMORATION OF THE FOUNDERS OF THE MONASTERY OF NEW VALAMO

His Beatitude THEOPHILOS III,

Patriarch of Jerusalem

11 September 2010

Your Eminence, Archbishop Leo,

Your Eminences,

Archimandrite Sergei,

Beloved Brethren of New Valamo,

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

It is a great joy for us to concelebrate this Liturgy with you, dear brother Archbishop Leo, with our brother bishops, with Archimandrite Sergei, the hegumen, and with the monastics and the faithful gathered here. We give thanks today for the foundation of this monastery and as we commemorate Saint Sergius and Saint Herman, we ask for their prayers for you all and for this beloved monastery.

We celebrate today not simply the 70th anniversary of the foundation of New Valamo in 1940; we celebrate also the noble monastic tradition that you trace through the monastery of Valamo at Lake Ladoga in Russia and back to the earliest days of the monastic life of the Church.

Monasticism is at the heart of the Orthodox Church, and it is fitting that one of the most important signs of the enduring power of monasticism is here in the Church of Finland. For us the desert is a spiritual oasis, and this Monastery of New Valamo, truly a “desert of the North”, unites us with the desert of Palestine. We trace the ascetical tradition of the Church back to Our Lord himself, for it is Our Lord Jesus Christ who is the model for all monastics in the example of his self-giving.

As Saint Paul said in the Letter to the Philippians,

“Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a slave”. (Phil. 2: 5-6).

And as Our Lord himself said in the Gospel of Mark,

“The Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve.” (Mk,10:45).

This is the essence of the monastic life, and this is the lesson that monasticism teaches the whole Church. Monasticism is not a movement; it is a response in love to God. All faithful Christians are called to imitate Our Lord, and, whether God calls us to life in the convent or in the world, monasticism keeps us all true to this ascetical ideal.

This monastery of Valamo, whose founders we commemorate today, is a proof to us that monasticism is not something that existed only long ago in the ancient life of Egypt or Palestine. As Our Lord has said, “the Spirit blows where it chooses” (Jn, 3:8), and here we experience the truth that, by the grace of the Holy Spirit, in the reality of the genuinely ecumenical life of the Church, the distance between Palestine and Valamo has been bridged.

Christ the Pantocrator is our common earth and our common heaven. And monastic communities like New Valamo are nurseries of the spiritual life and the ladders for us from earth to heaven. Here monasticism survived at a difficult time for the Church in this region, and you kept alive the ascetical traditions of the Church in the face of great trials. So you have kept burning the true ecumenical vocation of monasticism, for in our monastic communities people are themselves the instruments of the love of God, which seeks not its own good, but the salvation of all without exception.

The members of the Orthodox Church are untied one to the other in this Euharistic feast. In this and every Liturgy we experience unity in Christ and at the same time we have a foretaste of the Kingdom of Heaven. It is precisely here, in this act of love that we demonstrate our oneness, and in spite of the fact that there are thousands of Eucharistic tables around the world, the Body of Christ is always one and undivided.

As the priest says in this and every Divine Liturgy, when he breaks the Holy Bread for Communion:

“The Lamb of God is broken and distributed, broken yet not divided, ever eaten yet never consumed…”

Our presence in Finland is a sacramental sign of this eternal reality and we bring to all the faithful of the Finnish Orthodox Church the blessings of the holy Places, and especially of the Tomb of the Anastasis and the Tomb of the Metastasis in Gethsemane. We also offer our special prayers for you, Your Eminence, dear Archbishop Leo, to you, Archimandrite Sergei on your Name Day, which is your spiritual birthday, and to this monastic community.

May Christ, who is the pattern of our life and our True God, through the intercession of the Virgin Mary, and by the prayers of Saint Sergius and Saint Herman, the founders of Valamo, bless us all and save us, for he is good and he loves humankind.

Amen.