JERUSALEM – On Thursday, October 20, 2016, Archbishop Pizzaballa visited some leaders of the Orthodox churches in Jerusalem, who presented their congratulations to to him following his nomination as Apostolic Administrator of the Latin Patriarchate, and wishing him success in his mission in the midst of challenges affecting the Holy Land.
From the Latin Patriarchate, Archbishop Pizzaballa, accompanied by Bishop Kamal Bathish and Fr. George Ayoub, visited four Orthodox Churches: Armenian, Syrian, Greek and Ethiopian.
Armenian Patriarch Nourhan Manougian welcomed the return of the Archbishop to Jerusalem and the Holy Land. He expressed his concern regarding the general situation: political turmoil in the Middle East, and the effects on various Christian communities. “War raging in Syria and Iraq have destroyed many Christian communities that cannot be replaced. The economic problems of the Holy Land, and other factors, have pushed many to emigrate to the West, causing a decrease in the number of Christians. This issue needs to be addressed by creating and promoting Christian solidarity”.
For his part, the Apostolic Administrator shared in the concern of the Patriarch, underscoring solidarity and communion through joint activities, to strengthen the Christian presence, giving Christians hope of securing a better future for their children.
At the Syrian Church, Archbishop Pizzaballa thanked Archbishop Sweiros Malki Murad, Patriarchal Vicar in Jerusalem, for his cooperation and joint coordination, emphasizing the importance of unity of the Churches. “Despite our different histories, we have a common voice. We must strengthen the Christian presence in the region, particularly in Jerusalem. Even with our small population, what we do and what we say is seen all over the world. We trust your leadership, your cooperation, the fraternal relations that bind us not only in religious celebrations, but also in our daily lives.”
Bishop Sweiros wished the Apostolic Administrator every success in his new mission. He also presented him with a leather scroll of the “Our Father” written in the Syriac language.
During the meeting with His Beatitude Theophilos III, Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem, Archbishop Pizzaballa thanked Bishop Nektarios for attending his Episcopal Consecration in Bergamo and the Patriarch’s presence during the official entry into Jerusalem. The Archbishop said: “As a representative of the Catholic Church I remain committed to work to continue to strengthen the Christian roots and Christian character in Jerusalem”.
The Patriarch responded, “Our strength lies in our love and our faith in Jesus Christ. I think that our past experience and our mutual understanding of the situation on the ground have strengthened our cooperation. The dialogue between the Roman Catholic and the Orthodox Churches is evolving well and there is better and a more profound understanding. It is a positive sign because the more our Churches meet and interact, the more the prejudice disappears. ”
At the end of the meeting, the Patriarch presented two crosses to Archbishop Pizzaballa, a symbol of hope and strength that bind the two Churches.
Finally, during the visit to the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, the Archbishop stressed the solidarity and unity among the Churches, noting that “the Ethiopian Church is an important component of the Church of Jerusalem, of which Jesus Christ is the rock and on him we build our future. ”