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A REPORT ABOUT THE DEVELOPMENT PROGRAM OF THE PATRAIRCHATE’S LAND PROPERTIES IN TALPIOT

His Beatitude Patriarch Theophilos III and from the First day of His election as a Patriarch, has assigned the patriarchate’s judicial and architectural team to search and investigate about the land properties owned by the patriarchate and to inquire about their status. In the year 2008 and through these investigations, it was ascertained that, the piece of land No. 2 plot 30288 with an area of 43 dunum located in Talpiot west of Jerusalem, is exposed to the danger of confiscation by the Municipality plans which had a public road going to be opened through it.

At the end of the year 2004 the Israeli local and municipal Authorities and the Israeli land Authority, presented the land planning project ( No. 3/5834 ) subsumed in the frame of many other projects agreed upon in advance concerning the areas of Talpiot and Giv’at Hamatos, the two areas that surround the land property of the patriarchate mentioned above and which are within the land properties of (1948). This land is not related to the land of St. Elias even though it is near the village of Beit Safafa. The land is part of a continuous area of about 200 dunums owned by the patriarchate in the same area. More than half the 200 dunums are  located inside the borders of (67), but the 43 dunums land mentioned above is located within  the lands of west Jerusalem and stretches, in certain extents, to the so called ” the forbidden area ” that separated between the borders of the State of Israel and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan at that time.

Through these investigations and through the procedures taken for the protection and preservation of this land it was ascertained that it still faces many dangers and risks, both from the Municipality of Jerusalem and from the contracts and deals signed by the deposed, monk Ireneos, resulting in difficult judicial and procedural conditions related to this land and its protection. These conditions imposes the need to embrace the Patriarchate, its decisions and actions against the confiscation of that land, not the impoverishment of the Patriarchate and the provocation of division in the Orthodox line by dispersing  rumors and by calling for  conspiracy meetings. The first of those dangers is the confiscation of the land mentioned above by the Municipality of Jerusalem, and the Israeli land Authority which is still present and exists till now; and if this happens the Municipality will implement all her decided plans on this land. The second danger is that the deposed, monk Ireneos rented this land twice to two different parties. One to a local constructor and the second to Nicolas Papadimas who is famous for his bad reputation and his intents and involvement with the settlers in relinquishing the real estates of Jaffa Gate. As for the third danger it is that of the deposed, monk Ireneos himself again by giving to the right-wing extremist Arieh Golovenshish, the owner of company B.A.R.A., the right to manage and control all the Orthodox real estates in the country. In this specific report we will also reveal the details of the dangers of the contract signed by Ireneos to B.A.R.A.

The risk of confiscation – Municipality of Jerusalem and Israeli land Authority

The Israeli land planning project defined the land of the patriarchate mentioned above as a “green area”: an open public area that can be confiscated for the opening of roads, gardens and public area. It is worth noting that the Israeli law for land planning and construction of the year 1965 stipulates that the ownership of the confiscated land is transferred and registered under the name of the municipality of Jerusalem, which means if this confiscation of the land succeeds the patriarchate loses it forever. The Deposed former Patriarch Irinreos, during the period of his accession on the patriarchal throne and even after the announcement of the municipality’s plan of confiscation of this land, did nothing to object although he had the legal right to do so.

The dangers and risks as a result of the deals signed by thedeposed, monk Irineos -(B.A.R.A. and Papadimas)

The contract signed between Irineos and B.A.R.A.

In late 2007 and while the Deposed former Patriarch Irinreos had recognition as Patriarch by the Israeli government, he signed a contract with B.A.R.A. in which he gave to this company the complete and exclusive right of management and disposal with all the real estates and properties of the patriarchate including the monasteries, the churches in Jerusalem and the old city and in all the Holy Places. This company is owned by the right-wing extremist Arieh Golovenshish. The danger resulting from this signed contract threatens all the Patriarchate’s properties including the land mentioned above. Through the patriarchate’s reactions and opposition relating to the above mentioned land, and the patriarchate’s legal team, the Patriarchate managed to expose this very dangerous contract, and confront it through the Courts. For more information and details about the points of this contract and the procedures undertaken by the patriarchate to challenge it please review the last chapter of this report.

Lease contract signed by the traitor Irineos on the same piece of land with two different parties.

The traitor Irenenos signed a lease contract for the same piece of land mentioned above with two different parties. The first party is a local contractor well known for his continuous backing and support to Irineos, and still there are serious doubts about who stands behind this contractor and this contract since he is well known for his inability to solely invest and develop this land. Note that this agreement was signed in 2007, after the dismissal of Irineos. As for the second party, on the 15-09-2003 Irineos signed a lease contract on the same piece of land to the so called Nicolas Papadimas whose name was linked with the contracts signed on the properties of Jaffa Gate and who is at present wanted by the Interpol. This signed contact empowers Papadimas to a complete disposal of the land, and does not prevent him from transferring his acquired rights earned from this contract to any third party.

Procedures taken by the Patriarchate to save this land and opposing the confiscation and leakage.

The solution was to oppose and resist the municipality’s land planning ( No. 3/5834 ) and change the classification of this land from a “green area” and “open public area” to a “buildings” area suitable for building and to present a development project which concretes the Patriarchate’s right of ownership and prevents  the danger of confiscation forever; keeping in mind that this solution calls for an immediate presentation of complete project plans. This solution was discussed during the Holy Synod’s session held on the 17/11/2008 where the following decisions were taken.

1.      Exposing all contracts signed by Irineos with the local contractor and Papadimas and taking all procedures needed for canceling and annulling them.

2.      To  present an opposing plea against the municipality’s land planning (confiscation plan)

3.      To select one of the biggest land developing companies in order to achieve the following goals:-

  • Changing the classification and category of the land from a “green land” and “open public area” to a “building” area suitable for building.
  • Follow up with the municipality (through lengthy procedures) in order to get a construction license and building permits for this land
  • The payment of all taxes, fees and surcharges which are estimated to be tens of millions of dollars
  • The construction of not less than 100 apartments on an area of 12.000 square meters for the patriarchate and its community
  • Only if the company succeeds in executing all the above, then the Patriarchate will sign a long term lease contract with the company for the rest of the buildings which the Municipality permits to build on the land. After the term of this contract the land and all the above buildings go back to the Patriarchate’s ownership.
  • There will not be an option clause in the contract to extend the term period of this contract.

In addition,

  • To act in order to register, in the name of the Patriarchate, a land with an area of 17 dunums which is adjacent to the land of the Patriarchate (the 43 dunums mentioned above); because at present it is registered under the name of the Israeli authorities; it is ours and we are claiming our right of its ownership
  • It is also worth mentioning that some parties try to distort the real area of the land and claim that it is an area of 71 dunums which is not true. The real area is 43 dunums, in addition to the adjacent land area of 17 dunums on which the Israeli authorities claim ownership. Thus the total area is 60 dunums. But if there is a need to put pressure on the municipality, in order to increase the constructing project opportunities of success, the patriarchate will allow the virtual use of an area of up to 11 dunums from an adjacent land, which is also classified as a “public open area”, without its actual use for any additional buildings.

The company of Mr. Shraga Beran is one of the best companies for land development.  He offered his services for the achievement of the above mentioned goals. He is a very famous business man with good reputation and a history full of achievements in this domain especially in changing the classification and category of lands. His group of companies has a history of more than forty years. Mr. Beran himself is a leftist business man therefore it is naturally that he will take part in the efforts done for the rebuttal of the risks that threaten the above mentioned land.

The negotiations with Beran company were held between September 2008 and April 2009 in which a conditional agreement for implementing all the above was signed on the 28/4/2009 As it is usually followed in the execution of big projects, a new company was registered for signing this specific contract, having a limited financial liability in order not to effect the mother Company. And the registered company will bear the name of the land’s location which is “The Company of New Giv’at Talpiot limited. And the signed contract with this company is stipulated with the implementation of all the items mentioned above within a timeframe of five years only and after this period the contract becomes automatically cancelled.

Foiling the attempts of B.A.R.A.. and the deposed, monk Irineos, to control the land properties and real estates of the Patriarchate.

1.      On the 23/6/2008 B.A.R.A.. referred a letter to the Orthodox Patriarchate informing her about a contract signed with the removed monk Irineos in which the company is given the exclusively complete right of disposal and management of all the Patriarchate’s properties. The company attached to the letter a copy of the contract that was signed with monk Irineos and requested a meeting with all the responsible people in the Patriarchate. It was revealed later that the owner of this company is the extremist right-wing leader Arieh Golovenshish.

2.      On the 7/7/2008 the Patriarchate referred an answer on the above mentioned letter to the company through her lawyers, rejecting any link or knowledge of this contract that the company claims.

3.      On the 14/7/2009 B.A.R.A.. sent a second letter to the Patriarchate’s advocate repeating its request mentioned in its first letter dated 23/6/2009

4.      On the same day the Patriarchate answered through her lawyer to the company’s letter and affirmed her stance in not recognizing the claim of the company. And she warned the company from committing any attack or violation on the patriarchate‘s properties otherwise the Patriarchate will resort to legal procedures and to the police.

5.      On the 21/6/2008 B.A.R.A. referred to an arbitrator as per the agreement with the removed monk Irineos and brought a law suit against the patriarchate to force her to recognize the signed contract with Irineos. Thanks to the non-recognition of the Patriarchate of this arbitrator, who derives his power from the signed contract between the company and monk Irenoes, the arbitrator was not able to decide on the case and was forced to reject it.

6.      On the 3/3/2009 B.A.R.A. referred to the central court with the same law suit  referred to the arbitrator but this time it was against Ireneos too because he failed to fulfill his obligations towards the company as per the signed contract between the two and the Patriarchate non recognition of the contract.

7.      On the 2/4/2009 the Patriarchate presented a list of defense to the central court where she affirmed her refusal to recognize the agreement between Irineos and B.A.R.A..

8.      On June 2009 advocate Imad Shoukri, representing Irineos, presented a list of defenses stating clearly the validity of the contract in which his client waived the rights of the Patriarchate in her property for the benefit of B.A.R.A. This further shows again the links between the removed monk Irineos with the suspicious groups.

when the Patriarchate went to register the development agreement with Talpiot Hahadasha co. in the Land registry she was surprised to find that B.A.R.A. registered a notification on the land and on almost all the Patriarchate’s land properties based on the contract signed with Ireneos which gives the company the exclusive and complete control on all the properties of the patriarchate to exploit them in the way the company sees it appropriate.

The patriarchate tried to cancel the contract between Irineos and B.A.R.A. in the land registry, but she didn’t succeed therefore she referred to the central court of Jerusalem on the 14/7/2009 where she requested and injunction order which prevents B.A.R.A. to act according to this contract and  according to the powers of attorney granted to the company by Irineos.

The patriarchate received a temporary injunction order against B.A.R.A. preventing the company from using the contract signed by Irineos in any institute or  in registering any notification in the land registry. In the hearing session the witnesses were questioned. One of them was Bishop Isichios who was questioned by advocate Ze’ev Sherf on behalf of B.A.R.A. Advocate Sherf is the advocate of Ateret Cohanim Settler foundation and the advocate who pleads on behalf of the Settler companies in the cases of the real estates of Jaffa gate which were leaked during the era of the deposed Irineos

On the 28/7/2009 the central court issued a judicial order to the benefit of the Patriarchate in which the court affirmed the temporary injunction preventing B.A.R.A. from acting in concern to the real estates, of the Patriarchate, that she tried to control until a final decision on the case is given.

Chief Secretary’s Office




WORKPLAN FOR ΤΗΕ CONSTRUCTION OF ΤΗΕ NEW GREEK ORTHODOX CHURCH IN BIR -ZEIT

TABLE OF CONTENTS:

1    SUMMARY.. 3

2    BACKGROUND.. 4

3    PROJECT DESCRIPTION.. 6

3.1   Objectives: 7

3.2   Outputs of the proposed project: 8

3.3   Beneficiaries: 8

4    BUDGET BREAKDOWN.. 8

5    PROJECT MANAGEMENT AND IMPLEMENTATION PLAN: 9

6    PROJECT STEERING COMMITTEE. 9

7    DURATION.. 9

8    BIDDING ARRANGEMENTS: 10

9    FINANCIAL ARRANGEMENTS: 10

10  PROJECT SUSTAINABILITY: 10

10.1 Maintenance: 10

11  RISKS: 10

12 PROJECT EVALUATION ……………………………………………11

13 CONCLUSION ……………………………………………………….11

Bir-Zeit Orthodox Committee

Bir-Zeit New Orthodox Church

WORKPLAN FOR CONSTRUCTION OF

NEW ORTHODOX CHURCH IN BIR-ZEIT

1  SUMMARY

This project aims at supporting the Christian Orthodox community in constructing a new Orthodox Church in the main square of Bir-Zeit in addition to other facilities through which the local Christian community can socialize and practice several activities. The project will include constructing 2700 m2 of three floors church, a multipurpose hall, library, youth club, computer room, office in addition to sanitary units. This project will benefit 2000 of Congregation of Bir-Zeit, in addition to 12,000 of congregations of the surrounding neighborhood. Bir-Zeit Church will be the center for all orthodox churches in the central areas. The total cost of this project is $ 5,000,000. It is estimated that the project will be implemented in twenty months.

With support from the Orthodox Patriarchate, the detailed work plans and designs were prepared. Under the overall supervision of the Orthodox Patriarchate, the local community of Bir-Zeit will keep the church functioning properly.

1          BACKGROUND

Palestinian Christians are unique due to their centuries of history and attachment to the land of Jesus Christ’s birth, death, and resurrection. Some of these Christians can trace their family lineage to the early days of the church; they are the direct descendants of those who first followed Jesus. Living under Israeli occupation, seeing their homes and lands confiscated, having schools repeatedly closed, blocked from traveling even for health or religious purposes, and with increasingly limited employment opportunities, many of the Christians have emigrated to other countries. Some emigration since the second Intifada is also blamed on the general state of conflict and hardship in the area, which was especially felt by the Christian community due to political situation and the economical burdens. Bir-Zeit town is located about 10 Kilometers (6.2 miles) of Ramallah city and about 25 Kilometers (15.6 miles) North of Jerusalem city. It has an existing population of around 7000 capita with 55% Christians and 45% Muslims.

The current church of Bir-Zeit -Saint George Church- was founded in 1871 at the eastern side of the old town of Bir-Zeit, and is considered to be the first church that was established in Bir-Zeit. The orthodox congregation of Bir-Zeit counts around 2000 orthodox Christians.

The capacity of the existing church is 100 prayers only; it has a very small annex that is being used for ceremonies like weddings, funerals, meetings and other occasions. Bir-Zeit Orthodox Committee; was formed to manage the church and help Christians cope with the current situation. This committee is facing burdens of meeting local community needs for having a bigger church where they all can practice their religious prayers and attend different religious activities and events.

The local community of Bir-Zeit owns a land of 4000 m2 to build a bigger space church. This land was used by 7 refugee families since 1948. Recently and with help from the Palestinian Authority, the land was evacuated and prepared for the construction of the new church.

The local community is active in practicing the following activities:

1- St. George Greek Orthodox Women Committee.

This committee was founded in 2002 by the Orthodox women of Birzeit (20 lady) .Its main goal is to provide spiritual and social services to the Christian congregation in Bir-Zeit. Achievements:

– Expand Christian families’ knowledge in Bible and religious places.

– Activate women role in the local community.

– Provide different services to disabled and old people in the community.

– Prepare and distribute a monthly spiritual magazine: “The Holy Spirit”.

– Prepare and distribute a yearly calendar that contains the feasts of the Orthodox  Church during the Liturgical year.

– Prepare religious journeys to the holy places in Palestine.

– Meet all the social requirements of the church (prepare Palm Sunday candles, decorate the coffin of the Good Friday, prepare for the special events after the divine Liturgy, funerals, roses, cleaning, etc…).

2 -Bir-Zeit Orthodox Boy Scout Group

This group was founded in 1985 by a group of young members. The goal is to provide its members with spiritual, mental and physical needs and promote their abilities in order to affect the society positively. Nowadays, it consists of 200 members.

Achievements:

– Razing awareness of young people in different subjects related to team spirit, accepting the other and being responsible…etc.

– Minimize violence inside the community, through promoting positive activities by conducting creative activities and encouraging non-violent environment.

– Participate in public events like Easter and Christmas yearly marches and other important occasions.

3 -Sunday Orthodox school

This school was founded in 2006 and consists of 70 children. The Sunday school first duty is to raise good quality of new generation by encouraging non-violent environment in addition to teaching the Bible and faith. The aim of the school is to teach the principles of Christianity, to educate the children by a number of psalmody and songs and basic prayer, as well as to teach them how to participate in the celebration of the holy liturgy.

Bir-Zeit church provides valuable contributions to the local community of Bir-Zeit and other five Christian communities in the area. Through this project, Christian communities will be provided by a space that will be used as an address to alleviate their burdens and help them cope with the current tough political and economical situation. With the closure imposed by the Israeli Government, Christians will use the church facilities as a recreation outlet to meet and socialize positively which will lessen the stress.

These benefits positively improve the local community in direct and indirect ways, and will enhance stability and the long-term health of community. It will minimize the number of youth immigrants. The leaders of the local community are working hard to maintain the role of the church to positively affect the community.

Implementing this project will contribute to alleviate the economical burdens of some vulnerable families through creating temporary jobs to some skilled and unskilled labors. Around 100 of engineers, construction workers, carpenters, welders, plumbers, in addition to vendors of stone, cement, steel, electricity…etc will directly benefit form this project.

2          PROJECT DESCRIPTION

The proposed project deals with the construction of a new Orthodox church at Bir-Zeit town that will consist of three floors with an area of 900 m2 for each floor.

– Basement floor consists of a multipurpose hall, library, youth club, computer room, office, toilet unit and a kitchen.

– Ground floor consists of the main church where religious events take place with participation of at least 1000 worships.

– First floor consists of a gallery for the church.

The estimated total cost of the project is $ 5, 000,000. The project will be implemented within a period of twenty four months

2.1 Objectives:

The short term objective is to construct a bigger space church for Orthodox Christians in Bir-Zeit and other 5 surrounding neighborhood.

The long term objective is to support Christians of Bir-Zeit to have a fruitful role in their Palestinian society.

The proposed project aims at satisfying the following immediate objectives:

– To provide bigger space church for 2000 Christian worships of Bir-Zeit residents and the nearby communities.

– To alleviate the suffering of the residents during weddings and funerals and feasts due to the small place of the church and the hall.

– To help improve the local committees achievements (Women, Boy Scout, Sunday Schools, Youth).

– To refresh the economic situation at Bir-Zeit and the neighborhood areas and create temporary jobs for laborers in the community.

2.2 Outputs of the proposed project:

The outputs of the project are expected to be as follows:

– 2700 m 2the area of a  wider church with a hall constructed

– 1200 resident  have better access to pray and share religious ceremonies.

– 20 ladies have a place for meetings and different activities, and activate more women in the local community.

– 70 children have a place to participate Sunday schools.

– 200 youth of both boys and girls scouts can meet and have exercises.

– 5 permanent jobs created at the end of project implementation.

– 25 households will have increased income during the project implementation.

2.3 Beneficiaries:

– Direct beneficiaries: 2000 inhabitants who are the Orthodox Christians residents of Birzeit.

– Indirect beneficiaries: All the citizens of the neighboring villages (12,000 residents).

3          BUDGET BREAKDOWN

The total estimated budget of the proposed project is $ 5,022,000 broken down as follows:

1. Construction cost  = 4,650,000 €

2. Engineering and management (3% of total cost) = 139,500 €

3. Contingencies (5% of total cost) = 232,500 €

4. TOTAL = 5,022,000 €

4          PROJECT MANAGEMENT AND IMPLEMENTATION PLAN:

The proposed project will be implemented by Orthodox Patriarchate through its General Secretary office in cooperation with the local community. The technical members from the local committee (Bir-Zeit Orthodox Committee) in cooperation with the General Secretary will supervise both the construction and the implementation of this project.

Bir-Zeit Orthodox Committee is at the top of the supervision of over all aspects of the projects. Its duties start from the early planning process up to the continuous evaluation of the project.

5          PROJECT STEERING COMMITTEE (PSC):

A Project Steering Committee will be established at the beginning of the project. The Committee will be comprised from Orthodox Patriarchate, and local community representatives in addition to the supervising engineering and project manager.

The PSC will convene regularly at least once a week to assess the progress of the implementation, report and find the proper solution for any problem which may endanger the smooth operation of implementation.

6          DURATION

The proposed project will be implemented during twenty (20) months in accordance with the following activities:

Preparing Tender Documents1 month

Tendering and Awarding of Contracts2 month

Execution of works15-17 months

Delays1 month

So the estimated time for implementation of this program is twenty and one months.

7          BIDDING ARRANGEMENTS:

All construction works will be executed through Competitive Negotiated Procedures. The PSC will execute and evaluate the bidding process, analyzing the offers and award to the best contractor, considering the quality and execution period.

8          FINANCIAL ARRANGEMENTS:

All the financial aspects of the project will be handled by PSC under the supervision of Orthodox Patriarchate.

9          PROJECT SUSTAINABILITY:

Bir-Zeit community under the supervision of Orthodox Patriarchate will ensure the sustainability of the project.

9.1 Maintenance:

All necessary maintenance works which will be needed for the ensuring the sustainability of the church, hall and library in addition to the computer center will be covered by:

1)    The Orthodox Patriarchate will be responsible for the overall maintenance works.

2)    Donations and grants from different International Organizations and friendly countries.

3)    The budget of the church.

10     RISKS:

All projects in West Bank are subjected to two main risks:

1)    Delay in implementation due to the frequent closures of the Palestinian Territories by the Israelis. These closures stop the flow of the construction materials, which are imported from Israel, to the construction sites.

2)    Increase in the cost of the project: Due to the continuous fluctuation in the prices of the construction materials or unexpected decrease in the exchange rate of the EURO, US Dollar, the cost of the project might increase accordingly. A more accurate approximate cost will be known after opening the tenders. The exact cost will be known after closing the individual contracts. If there will be an increase in the cost of the project, this increase will be handled by:

– using the Contingencies;

– decreasing the output of the project.

11     PROJECT EVALUATION:

PSC will carry out frequent evaluations during and after implementation. This evaluation will measure the degree to which the proposed project is achieving its objectives either quantitatively or qualitatively.

The main quantitative measures will be

1) The progress reports of the site engineer/s (daily, monthly, mid term and final )

2) The Invoices for material Purchasing.

3) Field surveying and visits.

4) Work measurements and checking.

5) Project time plan.

6) In addition to other financial tools like cash flow statement.

The main qualitative measure will be:

1) The Progress Reports of the Site Engineer.

2) The progress reports of all other relevant institutions.

3) Finishing work of the school.

4)    Local Community reaction and satisfaction.

12     CONCLUSION

The implementation of this project is very essential and important to residents of Bir-Zeit and the surrounding villages and specifically Orthodox Christians who will use the church. This project will help the Orthodox Patriarchate and consequently the local committee of Bir-Zeit to respond to one of the top priorities identified by the local community.

This project will contribute to revitalizing the economic situation in Bir-Zeit through creating jobs and activating purchasing power. Furthermore, constructing such big church will increase social tight between Christian communities and decrease youth immigrants.

Your Support

The great possibilities this new church will provide for all members of our community, certainly is evidence of God’s blessings and love for us that we have achieved so much for ourselves and our children.

We have been delighted by the response of those who have taken this project to their hearts and already generously offered their financial support. We would be grateful for your encouragement in the way of any contributions you are able to make.

Thank you for your prayers, your love and your support, and may God bless you.

If you would like to support the work through a donation, please donate at our account:

CAIRO AMMAN BANK

RAMALLAH BRANCH

CAIRO AMMAN BANK

SWIFT CODE: CAABPS22

CORESSPONDENT SWIFT CODE: IRVTUS3N

A/C 8900556307

BENEFICIARY NAME: GREEK ORTHODOX CHURCH TRUSTEES BIRZEIT

BEN.A/C NO.02/518/126039/00

BRANCHNO: 66/802

CORRESPONDENT BANK

THE BANK OF NEW YOURK

SWIFT: IRVTUS 3 N

ACC 890- 0556-307

For any comments, inquiries, please feel free to contact us on the church’ email: info@stgeorge-birzeit.ps

Chief Secretary’s Office

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A FORSAKEN CHURCH NEAR NAZARETH OFFICIATES AGAIN 60 YEARS LATER

The town of Maaloul is located at a distance of 20 minutes by car, west of the city of Nazareth. It is one of the towns which the Palestinian residents left after the founding of the state of Israel in the year 1948. Included amongst its residents of important standing were Arab–speaking Christians, the so-called ‘Romea’ Rum Orthodox who were numbered about five hundred. The Church was dedicated to the Ascension of Our Lord, and to Prophet Elias the Thesvetin. They were obliged to leave due to the circumstances of that time. This town is located in an area with cultivated pine trees and now encircled by an Israeli military base.

After a period of sixty years, 1948–2008, it became possible for the Patriarchate of Jerusalem to assert the re-officiating of this church.  This was due to the efforts of His Beatitude Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos III, His Eminence Kyriacos Metropolitan of Nazareth and Rev. Archimandrite Hilarion, Superior of the Holy Monastery of Transfiguration at Mt. Tabor.  His Beatitude assigned a Turkologist, a specialist of the Ottoman Era, who retrieved for Him the Patriarchate’s titles of ownership from the Land Registry. His Eminence Kyriacos Metropolitan of Nazareth cooperated with the Israeli Military regional Authorities for the free access to the Church and the performing of the Holy Liturgy. The Superior of the Mt. Tabor Monastery Rev. Fr. Hilarion tended to the church, plastered and whitewashed it as best he could and brought the necessary liturgical objects used for the Holy Liturgy, seats for the believers and whatever else was needed.

Thus when everything was ready to the finest extent for the first Holy Liturgy to be performed in sixty years, His Beatitude Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos III arrived from Jerusalem after a short visit to the Holy Metropolis of Nazareth, on the morning of the 19th of July/1st of August 2009. The Holy Liturgy was presided over by His Beatitude, concelebrating with His Eminence Kyriacos Metropolitan of Nazareth, His Eminence Issychios Metropolitan of Capitolias, His Eminence Aristarchos Archbishop of Constantina and Elder Chief Secretary, the Superior of the Holy Convent of Mt Tabor Rev. Archimandrite Hilarion, The Superior of the Holy Convent at Cana Rev. Archimandrite Dositheos, priests of Nazareth and of the area of Acco together with participating devout Orthodox believers from Nazareth and the surrounding areas, many of who came to see the place of their ancestors or the graves of their parents and grandparents at the adjacent cemetery. The choir of Nazareth chanted in devoutness in Byzantine style.

Indeed, the Liturgy was moving at this architecturally significant church, surrounded with supporting buttresses, with no plaster on the ceiling, the windows without shutters, situated in the wilderness where even pines and greenery grow naturally on the roof, yet the Church was duly tended and adorned for this solemn Liturgy.

His Beatitude spoke to the believers on the divine word referring to Prophet Elias as the Prophet of the true God, who prayed to God for it not to rain and it did not, then to rain and it did.  The Prophet who descended from the heavens and burned the woods and rocks of the altar on Mount Carmel and massacred the priests of shame, who resurrected the son of the widow at Sarepta in Sidon, who gave testimonies about God in front of Kings and was not ashamed and, as the hymnographer writes in the ‘troparion’, is the “second Forerunner – ‘Prodromos’ of Christ’s presence”. His Beatitude added that the personality of the Prophet transcends the ages, is above any nationality and is respected by Christians and followers of other religions. “This personality”, His Beatitude said “gathered all of us on this day in honour of his memory at this ancient and venerable church, which had been partially deserted due to the circumstances, kept through divine grace and thence passed to the Patriarchate again to be preserved and re-officiated, thanks to the good will of the surrounding Israeli Military Authorities and the love of those who dignify the house of God namely His Eminence Kyriacos Metropolitan of Nazareth and the Superior of Mt. Tabor Monastery Rev. Archimandrite Fr. Hilarion”.

“For all this”, His Beatitude ended, “let us give our thanks to God and let us honour the Prophet Elias and implore his intercession to help everyone and for the efforts needed to complete the preservation of this church.” Numerous believers received the Holy Communion, and everyone took the blessing of His Beatitude, receiving from Him ‘antidoron’ and an icon of the Prophet Elias. Following the dismissal a reception was held for everybody in the open yard beneath the tall pines.                                                                                                                                                   After this, His Eminence Kyriacos Metropolitan of Nazareth offered a sumptuous lunch – ‘trapeza’ to His Beatitude, His escorts, to the municipal Council members of Nazareth and to all participating fathers.

Mr. Zarzoura, the President of the Executive Committee, who was invited to this lunch, thanked His Beatitude for this initiative at Maaloul, which prepares the way for the preservation of other properties of the Patriarchate as well, and praised referred to the relationship between the flock and His spiritual leadership, which is discerned for its transparency, without which, he continued, “we as the flock cannot possibly exist.”

Chief Secretary’s Office

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CONSERVATION AND RESTORATION WORKS AT THE CHAPEL OF THE ‘PRISON OF CHRIST AND THE FAINTING OF VIRGIN MARY

On Thursday 26th /9th of July 2009 His Beatitude Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos III, escorted by Archbishops and priests of the Patriarchate, descended to the Church of Resurrection, where He was received by the Sacristan Rev. Archimandrite Fr. Isidoros and by Fathers of the Church of Resurrection, along with Mr. Theodosios Mitropoulos the Architect of the Church of Resurrection. They visited the north transept of the Catholicon (Heptakamaron-Seven Arches) where the ancient Chapel of the ‘Prison of Christ and the Fainting of Virgin Mary’ is located, behind the Chapel of ‘Clappae’. This is where, according to ancient tradition, the Lord was being held during the preparation of the Cross at the Holy Calvary.

On the ceiling and floor of this Chapel there are architectural features from the Constantine period and from the epoch of the Patriarch of Jerusalem Modestos, after the Persian invasion of 614 A.D. These preserved elements will be distinguished and better presented as a result of the restoration that is taking place at the Chapel and will better serve the worship and liturgical needs of the believers. At this place a discussion was held regarding how the Holy Altar and the Holy ‘Prothesis’ (table for the preparation of the Holy Gifts) should be arranged.

After this, His Beatitude met with the participants of the organised pilgrimage of the N.G.O ‘Romiosini’, which occurred at the Holy Places between the 9th and 13th of July. At the meeting they talked about and reviewed the congress held last month, ‘Romiosini throughout the centuries’, and the importance of ‘romiosini’ as the backbone of our nation. The guests brought with them medicines as humanitarian aid for the Polyclinic ‘St. Venedictos’ situated in the Patriarchate’s premises. During the following days the pilgrims had the opportunity to participate in a sacred devout vigilance at the Church of Resurrection and also to participate in a devout intercession to the honoured St. George the Great Martyr and Triumphant, at the Holy Monastery of St. George in the Jewish quarter of the old city. Finally they concluded their pilgrimage with visits to other Holy Shrines.

Chief Secretary’s Office

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PREPARING THE WAY FOR THE BAPTISM OF PILGRIMS AT THE JORDAN RIVER

His Beatitude Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos III visited the Holy Monastery of St. John the Baptist by the Jordan River and the traditional Biblical place where the Lord was baptised. The visit took place on Wednesday July 8th 2009 in cooperation with the Patriarchate of Jerusalem and the Ministry of Tourism of Israel. During the visit, the Ministry was represented by its Senior Deputy Director-General Mr. Raphael Ben-Hur and his colleagues, while His Beatitude was escorted by the Elder Chief Secretary His Eminence Aristarchos Archbishop of Constantina, the Superior of St. Gerasimos Rev. Archimandrite Chrysostomos and deacon Rev. Fr. Athanasios.

This area has been a military zone since 1967 and the Israeli Defence Forces permit pilgrims to visit the site twice a year, on the 5th /18th of January, the eve of Epiphany, for the ceremony of the Blessing of the waters performed by the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem and, on Holy Tuesday, for the traditional pilgrimage baptism of believers. This allowance resulted from a suggestion made by the late Patriarch of Jerusalem Diodoros I to the I.D.F authorities.

The I.D.F, in cooperation with the Israeli Ministry of Tourism, provided access to the site on the occasion of the Patriarch’s visit to view the premises of the Holy Monastery of St. John the Baptist, partially demolished since 1967 and to assess the possibility for its renovation. Approval for renovation work already exists and in order for the project to be initiated, it requires the submission of an architectural site analysis and the goodwill of a benefactor to finance the expenses.

After the visit to the Holy Monastery, His Beatitude together with Mr. Raphael Ben-Hur, the General military Commanding officer of Jericho Mr. Itzik Deri, the General military Commanding officer of Bethlehem Mr. Iyad Sirhan, the civil engineer Mr. Ofer Meital and the architect Mr. Ron Margolin, visited the place of the Baptism at the Jordan River and inspected the works carried out by the I.D.F, namely the support of the river bed for the safe access of pilgrims to the river waters and the construction of a stone platform and stone roofing for the performing of the Blessing of the waters ceremony by the Patriarch. This platform and its surroundings is the Patriarchates’ property.

The Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos III conveyed appreciation for the cooperation between the Ministry of Tourism and the Israeli Defence Forces which led to this facilitation, an event that preludes the gradual and permanent prevalence of peace, enabling the more frequent and easy visitation of pilgrims for their customary baptism and sanctification at the traditional Biblical place of the Lord’s Baptism.

Chief Secretary’s Office

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INAUGURATION OF THE RESTORED OLIVE PRESS OF THE CHURCH OF RESURRECTION

On Saturday 23rd of May 2009 at the Church of Resurrection the ceremony of the Blessing of the Water was performed on the occasion of the inauguration of the restored part of the Church known as ‘doheo’.

The site, located west of the Holy Sepulchre, is one of the most ancient parts of the Church of Resurrection and it is in the complete and sole sovereignty of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate. At this site there is an ancient olive press, stone aqueducts  for the canalization  of olive oil into a reservoir or ‘doheo’ for preservation in order to be used  for  the lighting of the numerous suspended oil lamps in the Church. This olive press dates back to the early years of the Church’s construction from the time of St.Helen and thus is of great archaeological importance, not just for its age but also for its functionalism in producing and distributing the oil.

This ancient part of the Church aroused the interest of His Beatitude Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos III from when he was ministering as the Sacristan of the Church of Resurrection and soon after His election to the Patriarchal Throne he took the opportunity and suggested to Mr. Petros Kyriakidis to undertake the cost of restoring and distinguishing this ancient olive press and its surrounding functions.  Mr. Kyriakidis expressed his alacrity and donated the finances for securing and restoring the olive press, cleaning and revealing its adjacent operating parts with the supervision by the Architect and director of the Technical Office of the Church of Resurrection Mr. Theodosios Mitropoulos, along with a specialist workforce. The restoration was carried out over a year or so and was completed recently. On completion of the restoration works the sponsors were invited to Jerusalem to attend the inauguration.

On Saturday morning of 23rd May, His Beatitude Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos III descended to the Church of Resurrection accompanied by Archbishops and priests of the Brotherhood of the Holy Sepulchre, the prominent guests Mr. Petros Kyriakidis and his son, together with Mr. Lavrentis Lavrentiadis escorted by the director of the N.G.O ‘Romiosini’, Mrs. Ekaterini Diamantopolou, a philologist and doctor in philosophy.

They venerated the Stone of Anointing and the Holy Sepulchre and walked behind it where the site of the olive press ‘doheo’ is located. Firstly the ceremony of the Blessing of the Water was performed and then Mr. Mitropoulos showed the guests around the restored olive press and its adjacent functions. Following this, they venerated the Holy Calvary, the Chapel of Adam and the Sacristy of the Church of Resurrection.

His Beatitude, on the occasion of Mr.Kyriakidis and Mr.Lavrentiadis’ pilgrimage to the Church of Resurrection, took the opportunity and spoke about the beneficial effect this Holy place has for the souls of believers and the role that the Brotherhood of the Holy Sepulchre fulfils. He then commented on the renovations carried out on the Church of Resurrection, such as the Catholicon and the ones ought to, expressing the Patriarchates’ gratitude to the sponsor, the Greek Government.

From the Church of Resurrection, His Beatitude, with the prominent guests and the Fathers, ascended to the Patriarchate.

In the Throne Hall His Beatitude thanked Mr.Kyriakidis and Mr.Lavrentiadis for their good intentions and their material contribution to the Holy Sepulchre and decorated each one as ‘Great Commander of the Order of Orthodox Cross-bearers of the Holy Sepulchre’. This has always been the established decoration that the Brotherhood of the Holy Sepulchre has honoured heads of Churches and States or other personalities that contributed ethically or materially to the Holy Pilgrim Places.

His Beatitude characterized the decorated guests not only as pilgrims but also as benefactors to the Patriarchate and to the Brotherhood’s mission in safeguarding and preserving the Holy Places, the tabernacle of our Lord Jesus Christ who was incarnated, crucified and Risen for us, substantiates the Roman Orthodox Nation and is the source from which we derive power.

Mr.Kyriakidis and Mr.Lavrentiadis were deeply moved and thanked His Beatitude and the Patriarchate of Jerusalem, stating that not only themselves but also their descendants will be forever friends and indeed supporters and defenders of the Holy Sepulchre.

After the honouring ceremony His Beatitude invited the honoured guests accompanied by Fathers of the Brotherhood of the Holy Sepulchre for lunch.

On Saturday afternoon, Mr.Kyriakidis with his son, Mr.Lavrentiadis    and Mrs. Diamantopoulou visited the Grotto at the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, the historic Monasteries of St. Savvas and St.Theodosios, the leaders of coenobitic and lauretic way of life in the Judean desert. On Sunday morning they participated in the Holy Liturgy at the Church of Resurrection and afterwards visited the Monastery of the Temptation of our Lord (Sarantarion) and St. Gerasimos in the Jordan desert, accompanied by clergy of the Holy Sepulchre Brotherhood before departing for Athens.

Chief Secretary’s Office

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