Easter Message 2005 from the Patriarch & Heads of Churches in Jerusalem

Brothers and Sisters,

Christ is Risen, He is risen indeed........Happy and Holy Easter to you all!1. Though our Churches celebrate Holy Week and Easter at different times this year (on the 1st of May and on the 27th of March), we are equally invited in these blessed days of penitence and Paschal joy, to the "supreme knowledge" of which St. Paul speaks, when he says: 'because of the supreme advantage of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, I count everything else as loss. All I want is to know Christ and the power of His Resurrection." (Philippians 3: 8,10).

We need indeed this supreme knowledge so that our penitence and our Paschal Joy will guide us in these days in which we still are in search of peace and life to replace quarrels and death.

2. Jesus appeared, after His Resurrection, to the disciples gathered in fear in the Upper Room. His very first words to them were "Peace be with you" (John 20: 20). Having greeted them, He showed them His hands and His side; true it was to re-assure them of His identity, but it also reminded them of the price He had paid for them and for the salvation of all humankind. Also to remind them that the way of salvation and glory is the way of suffering and death. Therefore, if we too would be true disciples of Jesus who defeated death and rose in glory, we must rejoice amidst our pain and long suffering, because it is a "sharing in His suffering" (Philippians 3:10b) and our way to the Resurrection.

3. We would like to turn our attention in these blessed days to the village of Maghar in Galilee, which was exposed recently to a painful experience between Druze and Christians. We turn our attention and our love to all its inhabitants; Druze, Christians and Moslems. Lessons for the future should be learned from what happened, so that such events will not be repeated. We are all destined to live together for ever. We have to find and to reach the best way of living together, each one being a support to his brother or sister, whether Moslem, Druze or Christian; each one respecting the other, overcoming all barriers of confessional ism and preventing all irrational and aggressive actions. We call upon the Government to do its duty and to guarantee security to all its citizens, taking rapid action to stop all violence as soon as it appears, allowing the process of reconciliation to start as quickly as possible.

4. No sooner had Jesus greeted His disciples to reassure their hearts and minds than He give them the greeting of Peace a second time, followed by these words: "As the Father sent me, I am sending you" (St. John 20: 21).

Brother and Sisters, at this particular point in the history of our Land, as we repent before God and as our hearts are full with the Joy of the Resurrection, we urge you all to remember this commission of Jesus: "As the Father sent me, so I am sending you" (St. John 20: 21). We are sent to our society to fill it with the power of love that builds and gives back life to what has been demolished. We are sent to play a vital role in our Land for justice and peace. We are called to raise the olive branch of forgiveness. We are called to forgive; that means to fill our hearts and the hearts of all with the hope and joy of the Resurrection. With the power of forgiveness, we persevere in claiming our rights, our freedom, our Land and our dignity, together with security for all, as we also persevere in affirming the possibility for the two peoples to live together in peace.

5. The journey into the Future may not be easy, therefore, to those who have made the choice of peace and non-violence we say that this choice needs a firm and long patience in order to bear fruit. Indeed the military barriers must disappear and free movement be restored in the Palestinian Territories, along with security in Israel. Violence on both sides must stop. All political prisoners must be released. The Jerusalem status must be put at the head of the subjects to be discussed. The first disengagement must be a step in a total comprehensive plan of disengagement that will lead to the emergence of an individual State of Palestine to live alongside Israel; two states quiet and secure. With all that, new hearts will appear, and the isolation wall fall apart with all its deprivations and inconveniences.

6. From the Church of the Resurrection, we wish all of our Brothers and Sisters all over the world a Holy and Happy Easter. We call upon you, Brothers and Sisters, to remember the Land of your roots. If you are aware that your spiritual roots lie here, then the conflict in the Holy Land is not the conflict of the others. It is your own conflict. We thank you for your continuing prayers, encouragement and generosity and for your presence through pilgrimage that has been resumed and will hopefully continue.

But we believe that the Churches can do still more. If all the Churches of the world recognize their duty towards the Holy Land, and if they all join together in common and concerted action to sensitize their governments, their people and the international community, their intervention will become a decisive factor in the attainment of peace, justice and reconciliation in the Holy Land.

Our Churches have received from the Lord a ministry of reconciliation. It is in these days that such action is needed, as we sense a mood of potential change in our Land with new hopes raised for peace and a new life. We are calling for a new awakening in the Churches of the world for a strong voice to be raised to promote peace in this Holy Land, where both peoples are in need of outside help in order to find peace and reconciliation.

7. We ask God to bless all of the faithful and all of our diocese. We ask Him to increase in us the supreme knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ, the defeater of death and our Risen Lord. We ask Him to increase in us our loyalty to our Land and our love to all its inhabitants, and to increase in all the Churches of the world a new awareness of their ministry of reconciliation now needed in this Land of the Resurrection.

Christ is Risen! He is risen Indeed! A Happy and Holy Easter to you all!

Jerusalem -- March 21, 2005

Patriarchs and Heads of Churches of Jerusalem