+ Patriarch Michel Sabbah: Latin Patriarchate.
+ Patriarch Torkom II: Armenian Apostolic Orthodox Patriarchate.
+ Ignatius VIII Pierre Abdul-Ahad: Syrian Catholic Patriarch.
Father Giovanni Battistelli: Custody of the Holy Land.
+ Anba Abraham: Coptic Orthodox Patriarchate.
+ Swerios Malki Mourad: Syrian Orthodox Patriarchate.
+ Abba Gabriel: Ethiopian Orthodox Patriarchate.
+ Riah Abu Al-Assal: Episcopal Church of Jerusalem & the Middle East.
+ Mounib Younan: Lutheran Evangelical Church.
+ Maximus Sallum: Greek Catholic (Melkite) Patriarchal Exarchate.
+ Paul Nabil Sayyah: Maronite Patriarchal Exarchate.
+ André Dikran Bedoghlyan: Armenian Catholic Patriarchal Exarcate.
“Christ is risen” (Like 24:1-52). Jesus, Lord and Saviour, has risen
today, just as He had foretold His apostles. “They will put Him to death,
and on the third day He will rise again” (Mt 17:23). Indeed, after the
suffering and death of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Churches of Jerusalem
witness with one voice and one heart to the glory of His Resurrection as
they rejoice in the hope and strength that comes from that empty tomb in
the heart of our Holy City.
Before bearing the cross Himself, Jesus had called upon His disciples
to carry the cross and follow Him. He had asked them to walk the narrow
path that leads toward salvation. This double vision of the cross and the
Resurrection applies to the situation in which we find ourselves today.
Our suffering and fear in the past few months has increased in view of
the uncertainty of the political situation. We reassure each and every
one of our sons and daughters that we share the pain of every family that
is deprived of hope as they go through their daily lives without jobs and
income or are exposed physically and psychologically to the painful measures
that are imposed upon them. Although the closures that are sealing most
of the Palestinian territories bring days of deep despair, we ought to
remain committed to hope. “I call heaven and earth to witness against you
today that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curses. Choose
life so that you and your descendants may live” (Deut 30:19).
In this cycle of struggle and suffering, we detect also the way
of the cross that will ultimately lead toward the glory of the Resurrection.
Thus celebrating Easter means the restoration of our hope that victory
of life over death also will be witnessed in the troubled land of ours.
This will only happen when violence and discrimination give way for a real
peace, between the ‘two peoples and the three religions’ of this small
land where God chose to reveal His divine will. Such a peace can only be
secured through mutual reconciliation based on the respect for the dignity
and value God has given to all human beings. In no way can this peace be
imposed by sheer force: it is nurtured by an honest application of justice
and mercy in line with internationally accepted legitimate resolutions
for the benefit of the weaker part. Therefore, all of us, who claim faith
in the Living God who has overcome death and sin, are called today to witness
and work with steadfast determination and persistent commitment. The words
of the prophet Isaiah come fittingly to mind: “See the former things have
come to pass and new things I now declare: before they spring forth I tell
you of them…(Isaiah 42:9) God speaks to us of a time in which the relationship
of creation with the Creator is restored, justice is the benchmark of every
nation, and the light of redemption shines in the deepest corners of despair.
As all the Churches of Jerusalem celebrate the paschal festivities together this first year of the new millenium, they also affirm that the experience of Easter is one of liberation. It is a triumph of life over death, of peace over violence. Looking at the One God who manifested His power over servitude and death, we address all secular and political authorities to welcome into their hearts the good will and good faith that builds new generations with renewed hope and sustained confidence.
Today, we ask our faithful in the Holy Land as well as all believers
world-wide to share with us in the transformation of hearts and minds so
that the true joy that comes with the Risen Lord can also infuse their
own lives. We pray for an end to the unjustifiable deaths that plague our
societies We pray for the immediate end of
all collective punishments, especially for the lifting of the closures
of Palestinians towns and villages. We pray for the good will of Palestinians
and Israelis – of Jews, Christians and Moslems alike – in actively working
for justice and peace. We pray for equality so that one no longer sees
the neigbour as an enemy but rather as a brother or sister with whom to
build a new society. Ours is a message of hope and compassion, of
reconciliation and joy. To all, we affirm that Easter is the time to become
one voice and one heart before the Lord so that “we may come to know Him
and the power of the Resurrection” (Phil 3:10) in a genuine, just and comprehensive
peace that no longer disparages one God-given life over another.
Our Christian message remains constant year in year out. Life conquers death, and love defeats hatred. Hope tramples desolation, joy overcomes despair and peace ends violence. So let us all proclaim together: “Where, o death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?.. But thanks to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1Cor 15:55.57).
The Lord is risen! He is risen indeed.
Patriarchs and Heads of the Churches of Jerusalem
15 April 2001