JERUSALEM – On Wednesday, April 19, 2017, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin visited the Latin Patriarchate and conveyed his Easter wishes to the Christian community of the Holy Land, represented by the different Heads of Churches in Jerusalem. This visit is the third since the beginning of his presidential term.
In 2015, President Rivlin was the surprise host of the traditional Easter wishes to the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate, and the following year it was to the Armenian Patriarchate that he went to greet the different Heads of the Churches of Jerusalem. This year, he chose the Latin Patriarchate for the visit to the Christian community of the Holy Land. All the heads of the churches of Jerusalem gathered for the occasion.
The meeting was marked by three speeches each one recalling the unique, sacred and universal character of Jerusalem for the three monotheistic religions and for the whole world. The speeches were delivered by the Apostolic Administrator Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa, the Greek Orthodox Patriarch Theophilos III, and President Rivlin.
In his speech in English, Archbishop Pizzaballa recalled the importance of the Christian communities that are “an integral part of the identity of the city, and without which Jerusalem could not be the same city. Without this small but well-rooted community, the “House of Prayer” for all peoples (Isaiah 56: 7) which is Jerusalem, would lose its universal character.”
This year, with the Easter Christian celebrations coinciding with the Feast of Pesach, the Jewish Passover, Archbishop Pizzaballa alluded to the “joyful confusion” and the “inevitable problems of organization” of these last days, while appealing to the President: “These colorful scenes from the life of Jerusalem are unique and must be preserved. Yes, it is important to preserve and guarantee the presence of the Christian churches in Jerusalem, their communities, and their traditions. The fact that, despite our small number, you decided to come to us, makes your visit all the more appreciated.”
Archbishop Pizzaballa prayed for the feast of Pesach, recalling the link between the Christian and Jewish celebrations: “Passover, the ‘Liberation from Egypt’ of the people of Israel and for us Christians also, has become the icon of liberation from all forms of oppression. For us, it is the final liberation from the power of sin and death, through the resurrection of Jesus.”
Speaking in turn, Patriarch Theophilos also emphasized the universal character of the Holy City, a “religious and ethnic mosaic (…) where ancestral traditions coexist side by side.” A mosaic made visible once more during the celebrations of Easter and Pesach, demonstrating, according to the Patriarch, “the common roots of everyone on this land, our common home.” He added: “This profound message of coexistence is usurped by the pride, arrogance, and violence of the man who sets himself up in the place of God.” Following Archbishop Pizzaballa, Patriarch Theophilos deplored the violence in the region, particularly in Egypt against the Coptic community. He ended by appealing for “peace and reconciliation” upon Jerusalem.
In his speech, which ended the meeting, President Rivlin addressed his commitment while stating: “We are all Jerusalemites. Together, we can build a common future. That is my dream.” The President did not fail to condemn violence and to express his condolences with the Copts, “struck with the utmost brutality” ten days ago and again today in the Sinai at the Monastery of St. Catherine.
Pictures: © Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem