Beloved Brothers and Sons,
1. “Grace and Peace' from God the Father and from Jesus Christ
be upon you” (2Tm1:2). We address this message to you on the occasion of
our common opening in Bethlehem of the Year of the Jubilee. We address
it to you and to the whole world, which looks to our Holy Land and to our
Churches to see in them an image of the first Church, from which the joyful
proclamation of the Gospel burst forth to the entire world.
The message of the Year 2000 invites us to concentrate upon the
essential and basic meaning of the Jubilee, that is, the commemoration
of the Incarnation of the eternal Word of God in the Holy Land, according
to the Gospel of St. John: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word
was with God, and the Word was God… And the Word became flesh and dwelt
among us”. (1:1 and 14).
In the Bible “jubilee” bears the meaning of a return of man and
creation to the Creator, and thus the destruction of all the various chains
binding enslavement. “And ye shall hallow the fiftieth year, and proclaim
liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants”(Leviticus 25:10). Liberation
means the freedom of each man from slavery and injustice at the hands of
his brother, and freedom of each from himself, form his own sins and from
whatever may be evil in him.
2. The Jubilee calls us to repentance. Therefore we sincerely
confess that we, in our path together in the Holy Land, have not preserved
the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace, and that our fidelity to
the prayer of Our Lord at the Last Supper has not been complete: “That
they may all be one; even as Thou, Father, art in Me, and I in Thee, that
they may also be in Us, so that the world may believe that Thou hast sent
Me” (John 17:21). God has drawn our hearts close together in these days,
and so we do not wish to be prisoners enchained in the sins and faults
of the past, but we wish rather to persevere in our common way, and to
beseech God to grant us more love and unity, so that we remain “in one
spirit and in one mind” (1 Cor. 1:10).
3. Our hearts must be one so that our Christian presence may be
a faithful witness to the message that we bear. Our hearts must be one
so that we may speak one word to or children with one voice, fortifying
their faith and animating their hope, each in his own church and all bearing
the same message in one Holy Land and one nation.
Our message and our identity in our societies is that we, in Palestine
and in Jordan and in every Arab land, are called to live in a Christian
and Muslim Arab society; and in Israel we are called to live in a society
which is Christian, Muslim, Druze and Jewish. And this is God's will for
us: that we live as Christians here, a part of our societies and not separated
from them, bearing with all our brothers and their difficulties, and building
a more honorable life for ourselves and for all. We must not be afraid
of or disturbed by any problem there may be. No, we must confront it with
what the Spirit of God gives us and with the strength which comes form
4. May we, on the way of peace, bring about justice and peace,
according to the word of Our Lord: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they
shall be called sons of God” (Mt.5:9). We desire that our societies be
established on the basis of justice and equality in rights and duties.
Jerusalem is the heart of either warfare or peace. We would see the same
sovereignty given to our two peoples and three religions in Jerusalem,
with the same rights and responsibilities, and a special status for Jerusalem
in order to guarantee all the historical rights of the churches and be
blessed by or to live in Jerusalem.
5.We address greetings to all our brothers the Muslims in Palestine,
Jordan, Israel and the rest of our Arab countries: God has willed that
we be together and share in one civilization nourished by our two religions:
Christianity and Islam. Our message is that we are to build our societies
in common, one in hand and in heart, and that each of us fully respects
the honor and feelings of his brother.
We address greetings to the Jewish people, with whom we live today
struggling in the way of justice and peace. We have lived together since
the seventh century, and we Jews, Christians, and Muslims, share the faith
of our father Abraham, father of the prophets. Today our history is in
our hands. Therefore let us construct it according to the chant of the
angels in the skies of our land: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth
peace to men of good will”.
6. We address our last word to the Christians of the world and to pilgrims
coming to us from all the churches. The church of Jerusalem opens her arms
to all the churches, for Jerusalem is the Mother of Churches and “the source
and giver of life, in which every Christian is born”.
Our celebration of the Great Jubilee entails the intensification
of our efforts here in the Holy Land, so that our Churches may remain faithful
to their call and their message, and that our Churches may remain faithful
to their call and their message, and that our faithful remain true to their
faith and to their freedom and aspirations in times when difficulties multiply
day by day. Let us admit neither fear nor disturbance. Jesus said: “Ye
have tribulations in the world, but trust Ye, for I have overcome the world”
We ask God that in this coming year He brings about goodness and
righteousness, and a new beginning of freedom and honor. With the blessing
of God, able to do all things, the Father, the Son and Holy Spirit, the
one and only God. Amen.
Patriarchs and Heads of Churches of Jerusalem
Bethlehem, December 4, 1999