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THE INSPECTION OF THE WORKS IN THE ROTUNDA AND THE SEVEN ARCHES IN THE CHURCH OF THE HOLY SEPULCHRE

On Thursday evening, June 3/16, 2022, H.H.B. our Father and Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos, visited the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, venerated the Holy Tomb and inspected the ongoing project of renovation and maintenance of the floor of the Rotunda around the Sacred Edicule and the area under the seven arches, which is supervised by the team of the University Sapientia of Rome, after the agreement of the Three Major Communities, the Rum Orthodox, the Latins and the Armenians, according to the Status Quo.

 His Beatitude was accompanied by Geronda Secretary-General His Eminence Archbishop Aristarchos of Constantina, Geronda Sacristan His Eminence Archbishop Isidoros of Hierapolis, His Eminence Metropolitan Joachim of Helenoupolis, Elder Dragoman Archimandrite Mattheos, Elder Kamarasis Archimandrite Nectarios, the Patriarchal Representative in Constantinople His Eminence Archbishop Nectarios of Anthedona, the Secretary of the Holy and Sacred Synod Hierodeacon Simeon and others, the Franciscan brothers of the Custody in the Holy Land, the Custos His Grace Fr Francesco Patton, Fr Dobromiro and other representatives of the Armenians, His Eminence Sevan, Archimandrite Samuel, Hegoumen of the Armenians at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Father Gurion and other members of their brotherhood, the Architect of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre Mr Theodosios Mitropoulos.

The members of this Delegation from the three Communities entered the project area and saw the excavation site, and received archaeological explanations from the specialists of the University Sapientia regarding the wall layers and the structure dating back to the Roman period, before the construction of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre during Constantine’s era. They were informed about the various maintenance and renovation periods at the times of the Byzantine Emperors and saw the rock of the north-east side of the Rotunda which supports the Edicule of the Holy Sepulchre and is carved to form the “new and empty” Life-giving Tomb of our Lord. It has been decided that this project will have a duration of 26 months with a cost of €11.000.000, funded by pious donors and sponsors.

After the archaeological research with the collection of the necessary artefacts, the excavated site will be covered anew, placing the intact slates back to their original position, while the damaged ones will be replaced by others, responding to the sanctity of the site and to the conclusions of this multifaceted work, but also through glass constructions that will facilitate the view.

We remind our readers that this is the second phase of the work carried out according to the aforementioned scientific methods and Status Quo agreement, after the successful completion of the first phase of maintenance and renovation of the Sacred Edicule, which was carried out by a scientific team from the National University of Athens under the supervision of Professor Antonia Moropoulou. The first phase was inspired and initiated by His Beatitude the Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos and the Communities of the Greeks, Latins and Armenians cooperated for its completion.

Nevertheless, we should also mention that all this work is a continuation of the prototype set by the renovation project in the ’60s, funded by the Greek Government, after the initiative of the memorable Patriarch of Jerusalem Benedictus, with the cooperation of the Sacristan Archimandrite Germanos, the blessed Vice-Sacristan Archimandrite Daniel, the Architect Leonidas Kollas and Mr Athanasios Economopoulos, who founded a technical office.

From Secretariat-General




THE INAUGURATION OF THE RESTORATION WORK BENEATH THE ROTUNDA OF THE CHURCH OF THE HOLY SEPULCHRE

The inauguration of the restoration work beneath the rotunda of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre took place on Monday morning, 1/14 March 2022.

The project is a continuation of the restoration of the Sacred Edicule which was completed four years ago. The current work shares the agreement of the Three Major Communities, the Greek-Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem, the Custody of the Holy Land of the Franciscans and the Patriarchate of the Armenians in Jerusalem, who have the responsibility of the Status Quo, and has been undertaken by the University Sapienza of Rome.

The project includes restoration or replacement works of the damaged floor tiles on the north part of the rotunda and excavations of its underground area, beneath the Seven Arches and in front of the Sacred Edicule. It is scheduled for completion within twenty six months and will be funded by sponsors and donors.

For the beginning of this project, present at the Holy Sepulchre were the Heads of the Three Communities: H.H.B. our Father and Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos, along with their Eminences, Metropolitan Isychios of Kapitolias, the Archbishops, Aristarchos of Constantina and Isidoros of Hierapolis, the Elder Dragoman Archimandrite Mattheos, the Elder Kamarasis Archimandrite Nectarios, the Master of Ceremonies Archimandrite Bartholomew and other Hagiotaphite Fathers, as well as the Consul General of Greece in Jerusalem Mr Evangelos Vlioras and the architect of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre Mr Theodosios Mitropoulos. On the part of the Franciscans in the Holy Land there were the Custos Fr Francesco Patton, Fr Dobromiro, Fr Athanasios Makora and others, and from the Patriarchate of the Armenians, His Eminence Sevan, the Hegoumen of the Armenians Fr Samuel, Fr Gourion and others.

On the occasion of the inauguration of this project, H.H.B. addressed those present as follows:

 

“Come bless the Lord all you servants of the Lord

who stand…in the house of the Lord.

Lift up your hands to the holy place,

and bless the Lord.

(Psalm 133[134]:1-2).

Your Beatitudes,

Your Eminences,

Your Graces,

Beloved Members of our Respective Brotherhoods,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

We are gathered in the holiest of places in this historic moment to continue the work that has been so well begun in the restoration of the Sacred Edicule. On this occasion we remember the words of the Psalms:

How very good and pleasant it is when brethren live together in unity!

(Psalm 132 [133]:1).

Five years ago this month, we gathered here to celebrate the completion of the restoration of the Sacred Edicule. That restoration was the fruit not only of the labour of experts but of our common purpose and unity in placing the restoration of the Sacred Edicule above all other concerns and distractions. As those to whom the Divine Providence has entrusted the Diakonia of the Holy Places, we must always deepen our commitment to this common purpose.

The restoration of the Sacred Edicule, the first in two centuries, stands as a true achievement of our Communities acting together and is a sign of hope for the world.

And now we stand at the beginning of a new phase of this work, to restore the area beneath the floor of the rotunda as well as the pavement, to ensure that the foundations of this holy place are secure for generations to come. We are deeply grateful to all those sponsors whose generosity and expertise are making this project possible, and we fully expect that his work will bring the present renovation of the sacred Edicule and the rotunda to successful completion.

We are meeting here at a difficult time for humanity. The pandemic is not yet over, there is grave conflict in Ukraine and in the world generally, there is a great deal of political, economic and social instability.

But here, in this holiest of places, that is, the Holy Tomb, there is hope. In the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ from the dead, the new and eternal life of God has shone forth like a light in our dark and confused world. As we care for and restore this holy place, we participate in the message of hope that emanates from the Holy Tomb not just for the Christians, but also for people of goodwill around the world.

As we gather here, we recall the words of Saint John Chrysostom which are recited here every day:

O Lord, save your people and bless your inheritance;

protect the fullness of your Church;

and sanctify those who love the beauty of your house…

For every good gift and every perfect gift comes from above,

coming down from you, the Father of lights.

May the Almighty God, the Father of lights, whose uncreated Light shines from the Holy Tomb, bless our new work that begins today in His name.

His Beatitude Theophilos III

Patriarch of Jerusalem




H.H.B. THE PATRIARCH OF JERUSALEM THEOPHILOS VISITS THE GREEK ORTHODOX COMMUNITY OF SHAHNIN

 

On Saturday 20 February /5 March 2022, His Beatitude our Father and Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos visited the Arab-speaking Greek Orthodox Community of Shahnin town, in the Acre Ptolemais district of Northern Israel. His Beatitude was accompanied by their Eminences, Metropolitan Kyriakos of Nazareth and Archbishop Aristarchos of Constantina, Archimandrite Philotheos, Dean Priest Issa Mousleh and Archdeacon Mark.

On this visit, His Beatitude offered His condolences to the family of the blessed Michel Gantus, former President of the Community Council.

Then, at the warm welcoming reception by Archimandrite Andrew Aleme, the Community Priest Fr Saleh Chouri, the Stewards and many faithful Christians, His Beatitude visited the construction site of the Holy Church of the Nativity of the Theotokos, which is being built with funds from the Patriarchate and donations by pious Christians. The Church is massive with Byzantine murals, a boast and ornament of the Community. His Beatitude gave the appropriate instructions and blessings to reach the consecration day.

The Community thanked His Beatitude for the Patriarchate’s support in this God-pleasing project, which unites the Community in the One Body of Christ.

From Secretariat-General




HIS BEATITUDE THE PATRIARCH OF JERUSALEM VISITS THE LIBRARY OF THE H. MONASTERY OF THE SACRED CROSS

On Tuesday afternoon, 15/28 December 2021, His Beatitude our Father and Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos, accompanied by Geronda Secretary-General His Eminence Archbishop Aristarchos of Constantina and the Secretary of the Holy and Sacred Synod Hierodeacon Simeon, visited the library of the Monastery of the Holy Cross.

This library belonged to the famous Theological School of the Cross which existed in the Patriarchate from 1845 to 1909 and many scientists of various expertise both laity and clergy graduated from it.

This library is rich in old-print and newer scientific books, many of which need special preservation and protection, due to the closure of the School since 1909. By the initiative of H.H.B. our Father and Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos the special conservator from Cyprus, Professor Stavros Andreou was invited to undertake this project.

His Beatitude supervised and praised this project and gave instructions for its continuation and the possibility of various organizations for its funding.

From Secretariat-General




RESTORATION WORK OF THE CISTERN OF THE HEGOUMENEION OF BEIT JALA AND THE BROADENING OF THE MAIN STREET

In October 2021, under the technical supervision of the Patriarchate’s Architect Mr Theodosios Mitropoulos and the Mayor Mr Nicola Hamis, that is the co-operation of the Patriarchate with the Municipality of Beit Jala, the cistern of the Hegoumeneion of Beit Jala was restored and carved a little. This was necessary due to the broadening of the main street to facilitate the traffic for the Beit Jala inhabitants. Details on the restoration work are in Mr Mitropoulos’ article below:

“The historic cistern (Well) of the Abbeys residence of Beitzala

By Architect  Dr Theo Mitropoulos

This cistern is located northeast of the Abbeys residence of Beitzala 1 * where it is adjacent to it, occupying the entire subterranean area of the garden while its mouth is located inside the garden. This cistern has a rectangular plan of dimensions (5X8X6M ) and is carved in the rocky subsoil of the area while its vaulted roof is made of limestone and hydraulic mortar. This technique is also found in the cisterns of David located in Bethlehem, which are also made in the same style.2 * Internally, the cistern is lined with a thick layer of kurasani 10cm thick. to prevent water leakage. This cistern is very ancient, and historically, it must be related to the cisterns (wells) of David located in Bethlehem. The Abbeys residence of Beitzala will be built after 1862 (year of construction of the  Church of Panagia in Beitzala) in this historic site of this cistern. With the current configuration of the road around Abbeys residence ( Igoumenio ), a large rocky mass of the cistern will be excavated (removed) and in its place, a stone wall over 4 m high will be constructed in order to hold the hydraulic pressures coming from its waters. Because the overflow port of the cistern was covered by the outer perimeter wall, this resulted in the water level rising very high inside the cistern resulting in increased pressures on the stone walls and the creation of vertical alarming faults. stone dome of the cistern. Today, the City Hall of Beitzala, which is carrying out reinforcement work in collaboration with the Patriarchate of Jerusalem in this cistern, is proceeding with the partial removal of the existing cracked stone structure and its reconstruction from reinforced concrete with concrete and stone. With this intervention of the restoration of the cistern, its water supply should be stopped and this area should be utilized by the Patriarchate both archaeologically and for tourism (religious tourism) due to its great historical value.

1*. The construction of the Igoumenion dates back to 1862 during the patriarchate of Cyril II (1845-1872) and the abbot Christoforos, a monk of Cyprian. The 19th century. The 19th century is the period when there is a great upsurge in the construction and decoration of Orthodox churches in the Ottoman Empire where the conditions for Orthodoxy change and become more favourable after the Treaty of Adrianople in 1829 and especially after the Hati Serif of 1839 and the Hati Humayoun of 1856, where the change in the internal policy of the Ottoman state with the establishment of the equality of all its subjects can be seen. The construction of magnificent temples in Asia Minor, Smyrna, Constantinople, Cyprus and the Middle East began more systematically. 2* The cisterns in Bethlehem will stop being used for drinking water after 1200 when a Saracen woman fell into the well and drowned, since then the water has only been used for drinking, according to the travelogues of the time.”

From Secretariat-General




THE LAUNCH OF JERUSALEM “LANA” NEIGHBORHOOD PROJECT, THE LARGEST HOUSING DEVELOPMENT PROJECT IN THE CITY

This morning, October 11, a press conference was held in St. George Hotel in Jerusalem to announce the launch of the largest housing development project in East Jerusalem named ‘Lana’ neighbourhood (meaning: ‘ours’ in Arabic) in Beit Hanina, as a result of a partnership between the Patriarchate of Jerusalem and Massar International Company, headquartered in Rawabi.

The speakers at the press conference were His Beatitude Theophilos III, Patriarch of Jerusalem, His Eminence Sheikh Muhammad Hussein, the Grand Mufti of Palestine, Honorable Sheikh Azzam Khateeb, Head of the Islamic Waqf, His Excellency Evangelos Vlioras, the Greek Consul General in Jerusalem, Mr Hanna Ameireh and Mr Issa Qassiessieh, representatives of the Presidential Committee on Churches’ Affairs, Palestinian Businessman Jalal Nassr-Eddin, along with a number of Bishops and Jerusalem’s community leaders.

Engineer Enas Musa Al-Waari, the project manager, welcomed the press and followed with a description of the “Lana” neighbourhood, its 400 residential apartments, its commercial centre that includes stores of world-famous brands, cinemas, restaurants, cafes, and offices, in addition to a modern school, a kindergarten, and green spaces for entertainment. Al-Waari also shed light on the aspect of developing the infrastructure of the project and its surroundings, so that there will be 3 to 4 floors of parking under the buildings, and a comprehensive expansion of the road network surrounding the project, which is located 15 minutes from the Old City of Jerusalem.

The first speaker was His Beatitude Patriarch Theophilos III, Patriarch of Jerusalem, who blessed the meeting and the project launch, adding that “the journey that took a decade, which brought us here today,” referring to the journey of obtaining the necessary licenses to start the project “has been both challenging and exhilarating.” Stressing the need to focus on what is positive in order to obtain the desired results and that’s how “our community will be blessed and grow in strength.” His Beatitude also expressed his deep gratitude to everyone who participated in this project.

His Beatitude, the Patriarch of Jerusalem, clarified that the “Lana” housing development project is a symbol of cooperation between the Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem and the wider local community to improve people’s living standards, provide housing, and job opportunities for thousands of citizens in the city, especially in light of the immense challenges that our Holy City and its community are witnessing. He added, “The vision of our esteemed friend and partner, Mr Bashar Masri, to create a comprehensive communal living experience makes the “Lana” neighbourhood housing development a model of progressive thinking in the field of community living.”

His Beatitude Patriarch Theophilos III also commended the local Orthodox community in Jerusalem, which has always aspired to realize this dream and to move forward with such a huge project, declaring that the Orthodox Church members will continue to participate in this project through a nine-member committee responsible for independent screening and selection of grant candidates for the purchase of housing units. This committee is chaired by Mr Hanna Ameireh.

His Beatitude also spoke about the merit of coexistence between the Christian and Muslim communities, which culminated in the Omari Covenant since the era of Caliph Omar Ibn Al-Khattab, all the way to the Hashemite guardianship under His Majesty King Abdullah bin Al Hussein, the guardian of Islamic and Christian holy places.

His Eminence Sheikh Muhammad Hussein, the Mufti of Palestine, praised “Lana” development project, and praised God for “making us the guardians of Christian and Islamic sanctities.” His Eminence added that “we have life and aspirations in Jerusalem” and housing is an important part of our continuous presence and future. His Eminence thanked His Beatitude Patriarch Theophilos III for his contribution to strengthening the steadfastness of Jerusalemites. He also thanked the developer of the project, Mr Bashar Masri, for bringing this project to light, calling on Palestinian and Arab businessmen to follow suit and invest in Jerusalem.

His Eminence the Grand Mufti of Palestine concluded his speech by saying, “Blessed are these efforts, and we ask God more of them so that we attain our political, religious and social rights towards a secure life as it was during the days of Jesus Christ, peace be upon him, and the days of the journey of the Prophet Muhammad, may God bless him and grant him peace, from Mecca to Jerusalem, and the days of the Omari covenant that is considered the basis of the common life between Muslims and Christians in this land.

As for the developer of the project, Mr Bashar Masri, the head of the board of directors of Massar International, the Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem’s partner in this huge project, said that the “Lana” project is a one billion shekel development. He said that he went on to seek the necessary licenses for ten years, which was crowned with success thanks to the effort, commitment and full cooperation of the Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem. 

Masri added that the “Lana” neighborhood is an integrated modern neighborhood, and its success paves the way for more housing projects that serve the various economic classes in the city of Jerusalem, stressing that the decision to invest in Jerusalem is a strategic decision for Massar International to deepen economic empowerment in Jerusalem and strengthen the steadfastness of Jerusalemites. Masri explained that the “Lana” development project, which was designed by more than 40 engineers, will provide thousands of job opportunities for Jerusalemites, and will contribute to strengthening the local economy.

As for the financial arrangements for the purchase of apartments, Masri said that the management of “Lana” development has completed negotiations stage with a number of Palestinian banks to provide mortgages for the apartments, so that the citizen would pay 20% – 25% of the value of the apartment and the rest is to be paid in installments for 15 years, adding that The Palestinian Monetary Authority has provided incentives to Palestinian banks to encourage them to provide the necessary mortgages at acceptable rates. Masri confirmed that this project is a purely Palestinian, with 100% Palestinian capital, and that the project did not receive any assistance or grants.

 

News and Photos by: Heba Hrimat.

 




VISIT OF THE ARCHAEOLOGIST DR. DIETER VIEWEGER FROM GERMANY AT THE PATRIARCHATE

On Thursday 3/16 September 2021, the Archaeologist Professor Dr Dieter Vieweger, Director General of the German Protestant Institute of Archaeology, accompanied by his wife, Mr Katja Soennecken, who is also an archaeologist, visited His Beatitude our Father and Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos, to discuss the continuation of the excavations at the property of the Patriarchate on the hill of Sion.

From Secretariat-General




THE LAUNCH OF THE RENOVATION PROJECT AT THE HOLY MONASTERY OF PROPHET ELIJAH IN JERUSALEM

At noon on Tuesday, 7th of September 2021, H.H.B. our Father and Patriarch of Jerusalem, Theophilos III, accompanied by the Director of the Patriarchate’s Finance Department, His Eminence Metropolitan Isychios of Kapitolias, and Geronda Chief Secretary, His Eminence Archbishop Aristarchos of Constantina, visited the Holy Monastery of Prophet Elijah, located between Jerusalem and Bethlehem near the place of the “Seat of the Virgin Mary”.   The visit aimed to launch the much needed renovation project of the Monastery; where the gratitude of the Patriarchate was also highlighted by His Beatitude for the generous donation extended by the Russian non-profit organization: “Foundation for Support of Christian Culture and Heritage”.

 The project is, God willing, scheduled for completion before Christmas this year, when the official departure of the Patriarchal Entourage to Bethlehem will take place on the Eve of Christmas celebrations.

His Beatitude and the Patriarchal delegation were welcomed, today, by the good keeper of the Monastery, Monk Achillios.

From Secretariat-General




EPISCOPAL LITURGY AT THE RUINS OF A 5TH CENTURY BYZANTINE CHURCH IN THE ISRAELI CITY ASHDOD (ANCIENT COASTAL AZOTOS)

Around 1921, at the beginning of work at a construction site in a neighbourhood of south Azotos (present Ashdod), the digging machine uncovered mosaics of an old Byzantine Holy Church, with the result that the Archaeological Service of Israel intervened and prohibited the continuation of the works.

Ever since the specific plot remained empty and fell under the ownership of the state. In 2009, the Archaeological Service assigned the responsibility of the excavations to the specific plot to archaeologist Dr Alexander Fantalkin, Lecturer at Tel Aviv University, who specializes in Ancient Greece in the 8th century BC. The excavations were postponed and continued this year.

A building complex with a central temple and chapels of unique spiritual and historical value were discovered during the excavations. There is a possibility that it is associated with the existence of an early form of a Hesychastic Monastery for an Order of Virgin Women with the title Deaconess.

On Thursday morning, 16/29 July 2021,  an outdoors Divine Liturgy at the ruins of the ancient Church was officiated by His Eminence Archbishop Theophanes of Gerassa, with the participation of the Reverend Archimandrites; Eudokimos, the Spiritual Father of Saint Savvas’ Lavra, Ignatios, Hegoume of Beit Sahour and Beit Jala, Constantine, Hegoumen of the Holy Monastery of Hozeva, Artemios, Hegoumen of Haifa, Leontios, Hegoumen of Rafeidia of Samaria, Marcellus, Hegoumen of Saint George in Lydda, and Farther Alexander Yasevitch, from the Russian-speaking flock in Beer Sheva.

After the Divine Liturgy, His Beatitude, our Father and Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos led a Trisagion for the repose of the souls of the departed Fathers of old, whose names are commemorated in the various inscriptions of the mosaic floor as:

Herakleios Bishop

Procopios Bishop

Karos Bishop

Gaianos Presbyter

Stephanos Presbyter

Maximos Deacon

Sophronia or Euphrosyni Mother

Severa Deaconess

Theodosia Deaconess

Gregoria Deaconess

Then, at the presence of the local authorities, namely the Vice Mayor of Ashdod, the team from the Archaeological Service of Tel Aviv University, His Beatitude was guided at the excavation site by Dr Alexander Fantalkin, and addressed those present underlining the importance of the excavation findings as a link between the Old and the New Testament and as a meeting place for researchers, pilgrims and tourists, inspiring to a life of creation, peace and civilization. His Beatitude’s address follows below:

“Mr Mayor,

Dr Fantalkin,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a great pleasure for us to be here today at this significant site. This church, established by Bishop Procopios in the 6th century, is important evidence of the fact that Ashdod, known then as Azotos, was among the principal cities on the coast during the Byzantine period.

Ashdod has a long and noteworthy history, and we read about it in both the Old and the New Testaments. According to the Book of Joshua, it was given to the Tribe of Judah as their home (Joshua 15:46), and in the Acts of the Apostles, we read that Saint Philip found himself hereafter baptizing the officer of the court of the Ethiopian queen (Acts 8:40).

These are only two examples from its long history. But they speak to the fact that the Bible is a record of our shared sacred history. And the discovery of this Byzantine church, which is for us Christians a significant holy site, is a testimony to the witness that the Patriarchate of Jerusalem has given down the centuries to our sacred history. As the oldest religious institution in the region, the Patriarchate has embodied this sacred history and given it legitimacy.

We appreciate very much that the State of Israel and the Antiquities Authority are sensitive to the diverse civilizations that have existed in this region. This has always been a multi-cultural, multi-ethnic, and multi-religious landscape where different peoples have flourished down the ages. And we wish to recognise the hard work and commitment of Dr Fantalkin and the Faculty of Humanities of Tel Aviv University, to which the Department of Archaeology belongs, since the discovery of this site in 2017. They have borne the major burden of the work of this excavation and brought to light this invaluable heritage.

This site is both a holy site as well as a site of supreme historical and academic value. There is an existence of the Christian presence here even before this Church. We know that one of the bishops of this region, Bishop Silouanos, attended the First Ecumenical Council in Nicaea in the year 325. There are inscriptions at this church mentioning the name of Bishop Hierakleios, who participated in both the Third Ecumenical Council of Ephesus in 431 and the Fourth Ecumenical Council at Chalcedon in 451.

But we have here a site that, like Madaba and Megiddo, has the power to draw not only scholars but also tourists and pilgrims in large numbers. We have a treasure here that we must preserve and make accessible to the many hundreds of thousands of pilgrims who come to the Holy Land every year. As a site of such significant scientific and religious consequence, this site is of immense value to the City of Ashdod, and it is part of the common heritage of all humanity in the Holy Land.

At this site, many tombs have been discovered, including the graves of several women who bore the title deaconess. This confirms for us the existence of this office in the early Church. In addition to this, tombs of holy martyrs have been uncovered, which is proof that this place served as a liturgical gathering place before the 4th century. This is evidence that this place was a place of worship during the time of persecution. According to the writings of Saint John Chrysostom, the tombs of the martyrs were used as the altars where the divine Eucharist was celebrated. This discovery alone will draw the presence of pilgrims, both from the East and the West, who will want to venerate this holy site and who hold the martyrs from the age of persecution in high honour.

We thank you, Mr Mayor, for your care and concern for the preservation of this site that is a witness to our shared sacred history in this region. And we congratulate you, Dr Fantalkin, on your remarkable achievement in bringing this site to the attention of the world community. The conservation and development of this site by the local authorities would strengthen the existing good relations between the State of Israel and the Patriarchate of Jerusalem, and, by extension, with the Christian world in general and with the Orthodox world in particular, such as the nations of Greece, Cyprus, Russia, Rumania, Bulgaria, Serbia, Georgia and others.

In the preservation of this site, today’s residents of Ashdod will take pride in the further evidence of the historical and spiritual significance of their beloved city, and if we pay special attention to those who have preceded us and left an indelible stamp of their presence, we would expect future generations to preserve the evidence of our own lives and witness here. As we read in the Book of Psalms:

Then we your people, the flock of your pasture,

will give thanks to you forever;

from generation to generation, we will recount your praise.

(Ps 78 [79]: 13)

It is our fervent hope and desire that this site be preserved intact, and ultimately be made accessible both to scholars and to pilgrims, like all other holy places in our region. This would be a living testimony of the history of this ancient city and would promote peaceful coexistence, tolerance, and mutual respect. This would be a tangible symbol of the words we read in the Bible, that we are to pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, and gentleness (1 Tim. 6:11).

This is the mission of the Patriarchate, and we pledge ourselves to support and assist in this work. MAY this place be a source of both knowledge and spiritual refreshment for generations to come.

Thank you.”

This important event was organized by His Eminence Archbishop Aristovoulos of Madaba, who is responsible for the Russian-speaking flock of the Patriarchate.  In the end, His Eminence offered the Patriarchal Entourage and all present, boiled wheat, refreshments and fruit.

From Secretariat-General




THE INAUGURATION OF THE NEW WING OF THE PATRIARCHATE’S ARCHIVES BUILDING

On Monday 11/24 May 2021, after the meeting of the Holy and Sacred Synod, H.H.B. our Father and Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos, accompanied by the Members of the Synod, observed the Service of the Blessing of the Water at the new wing of the Patriarchate’s Archives building, which was funded by the Patriarchate. The building is above the old Library, a continuation of the Old Archives building of the Patriarchate.

With this opportunity, His Beatitude underlined the importance of this project for the placement in the new wing the arrangement and digitization of numerous documents, mainly of the period of the Ottoman rule in the Holy Land, ownership documents, of pilgrimage rights, firmans, Berats and others and thanked the Architect of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre Mr Theodosios Mitropoulos who conducted the architectural project and completed the structure, along with all who contributed to the completion of this project. His Beatitude also wished the Archivist Most Reverend Archbishop Aristovoulos of Madaba success in Archiving the documents with the help of Professor Agamemnon Tselikas, the redactor of the Directory of these Archives.

From Secretariat-General