1. Here we are meeting anew by the holy tomb of the Risen Lord Jesus Christ. We meet to glorify God who “in his great mercy has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into a heritage that can never be spoiled or soiled and never fade away” (I Pt 1:3-4).

Latin Patriarchate – Jerusalem
Easter 2004

Dear Brothers and Sisters

1. Here we are meeting anew by the holy tomb of the Risen Lord Jesus Christ. We meet to glorify God who “in his great mercy has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into a heritage that can never be spoiled or soiled and never fade away” (I Pt 1:3-4). Our joy today, as the Resurrection itself, is entrenched in the mystery of the cross. “The pains of Jesus Christ are the source of salvation for every individual. For this, Jesus has scarified his life to forsake us all, so that if we have full faith in him, we can enjoy eternal life. For a period of time, He wanted to be like us and among us so that when we accept the eternity promises, we will live with him an everlasting life. This is the gift of Easter, and that is the dawn of a new world” [An old Easter sermon- The Second Reading; Wednesday after Easter] 

Dear Brothers and sisters,
2. We are gathered in front of the tomb of our salvation, and here we bring in our prayer, all our daily ordeals.  In his First Letter Saint Peter says: “Be glad about this, even though it may now be necessary for you to be sad for a while because of the many kinds of trials you suffer” [1 Pt 1: 6]. Our hope and contentment should surmount all the daily tribulations which certain men can impose upon their societies. We have to be valiantly capable, and amidst these ordeals and trials to joyfully receive the commandment of the apostle saying: “Instead, be holy in all that you do, just as God who called you is holy. The scripture says: Be holy because I am holy” [1 Pt 1: 15-16].
The holiness of our life can genuinely appear in our love of all people, whatever be their religion or nationality, and whatever be their role in the sufferings which they are imposing upon us. Again Saint Peter says: “Since by your obedience to the truth  you have purified yourselves so that you can experience the genuine love of brothers, love each other intensely from the heart, for your new birth was not from any perishable  seed but from imperishable seed, the living and enduring Word of God” (1 Pt 1: 22-23].

3. Days of crisis are days of grace. Days of crisis are unequivocally not for despair or blind hatred. They are days in which we are put before God’s holiness, who teaches us with his own ways, how to overcome our problems and our differences by the spirit that He bestows in our hearts (cf Rm 5,5), the spirit that helps us to overcome evil with goodness. Nowadays, the evil in our land is the continuous bloodshed, the over-stepped human dignity, as it is submitted to humiliation and fear. Evil in our land is the siege, the ‘segregation Wall’, and the absence of security and tranquility. Most bitterly, God with all his peaceful and loving means, is secluded from all the so far submitted plans that might ensure the needed security in this land. Regrettably, they are plans of death or plans of life at the expense of others. No one has the right to claim for his security at the expense of others’ dignity, life, or land. Unfortunately, that is what we witness today.

4. Easter means the passage from death into life, from servitude to freedom. Every sincere believer who celebrates Easter prays and acts for his own freedom and that of others, for his own transition and that of others from death to life. This is our vision of peace in this Holy land: Freedom and life for all, for both peoples, Palestinian and Israeli. Both have to pass from their current state of death to a new life. A new life embedded in the peace and the love of God, a new life that consists in mutual trust, and reciprocal  respect for others’ dignity, land, and independence. Again, no one has the right to live at the expense of others’ life or on the land of others. Land is a gift from God to all human persons so as to live on it without fear and in conformity with His love for all His creatures. Any reclamation of the land, which disregards the love of God for all His creatures is illegitimate and immoral.

5. For the Jewish people which celebrates the Passover in these days, we extend our sincere wishes for a holy Pesach in the presence of God and His love. We wish him the security for which he is in permanent search. However, we have said and we will always reiterate that all the adopted means that have been and are still used to create security are by themselves ways of insecurity. Killing, demolition, the construction of “segregation walls’ are not ways in conformity with the holiness of this Land, nor do they lead to the needed security. One must finally come to this conviction that the security of the one part resides in the security of the other part; if one part seeks to secure his own life, he has to refrain from oppressing others’ life. It is impossible to continue our path with such blindness, deceiving ourselves and the others as we tend to conceal the essence of the conflict, which is oppression of another people, and keep insisting on the reactions to this oppression that are manifestations of violence. Regrettably, we tend to fight the symptoms rather than eradicate the disease. Violence is condemned and in the same time it is caused by the permanence of others’ oppression.

Another fact that should be acknowledged: Both parties are capable of mutual respect and reconciliation, whether Palestinians or Israelis. The enemy of today might become the friend of tomorrow. Within this context, all means and plans of security and self defense should be adopted, and not within the context of the suppression and eradication of others.

Dear Brothers and sisters,
6. In this day of the Resurrection we rejoice and renew our hope and our strength in order to transform the evil of our time into good. It is a hard time. But we have to accept our vocation to live a difficult life, while bearing in our hearts the joy of the Resurrection. Your role, dear brothers and sisters, is to build and to love, so that with your love you will achieve your own redemption and that of our land. “The God of all grace who called you to eternal glory in Christ will restore you, he will confirm, strengthen and support you”. [1 Pt 5:10]. Amen.

+Michel Sabbah, Patriarch