In a situation which remains a walk towards more light and more justice for our countries, and towards more awareness of our vocation and of the meaning of our life as Christians in this Holy Land, the message of the Pope is, first of all, a prayer.


Easter Message

1.  I wish you all, with the Risen Lord, a holy and happy Easter. Christ is risen! He is risen indeed.
Our Easter message this year follows on the message addressed to us by the Holy Father, John-Paul II, when he visited our Churches, our Holy Places and the sufferings of our peoples. In a situation which remains a walk towards more light and more justice for our countries, and towards more awareness of our vocation and of the meaning of our life as Christians in this Holy Land, the message of the Pope is, first of all, a prayer. It  should begin, end and accompany all our actions. That was the meaning for us of his long and deep moments of prayer which isolated him from all those who surrounded him, from their wish to approach him, to greet him, to touch him, or to protect him. In that way, he prayed in the principal Holy Places recording the mystery of  human salvation: on Mount Nebo, his first encounter with the mystery of Revelation in our land, in the grotto of the Nativity in Bethlehem, where he took the time to pray his Office, in the grotto of the Annunciation, in Gethsemane and in the Cenacle in Jerusalem, and last in the Holy Sepulchre, before the Tomb  and on the Calvary. These were moments of prayer and silence with God which continued in his encounters with the crowds, beginning with Madaba, Amman, Jordan Valley, then in Bethlehem, on the Mountain of Beatitudes and in Nazareth.
2. Led by the same deep prayer, and by the same presence of God, he wanted to meet with all. He wanted to meet all Christians at the ecumenical meeting in the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate, and the visit to the Armenian Patriarchate, and all religions, each one in his own place of prayer, at the synagogue, the Wailing Wall, and the esplanade of the Mosque of Omar, and then together in the interreligious meeting.
Led always by the same deep prayer, and by the same divine presence, he wanted to meet the sufferings of both peoples living in the land of his pilgrimage, the Palestinian and the Jewish people. He wanted also to meet with the political leaders in Jordan, Palestine and Israel, since these too, with all their responsibilities, were part of his prayer.

3.  The message he left for us all is the message of a man filled with the spirit of God. A message first to the Church of Jerusalem, to all this Church, in other words to all Christians. All, indeed, faithful, and very often their hierarchies, have accompanied the pilgrimage of the Pope: they saw, listened and were impressed. His message to the small flock was simple: be courageous, accept your vocation and accomplish your mission in your different societies in the land of Jesus. He confirmed the Catholic Churches in their synodal journey, and urged us to continue in this path by the application of the pastoral plan, fruit of the synod. He confirmed the walk of our Churches towards unity, a walk already begun, though still hesitant, surrounded by fears and sensitivities.
4.  His was also a message to the Universal Church inviting her to return to her roots. Indeed as successor of St Peter, he brought with him to this pilgrimage the whole Church. Seen in this light, his pilgrimage is an invitation to the Church to remain, somehow in a physical way, closer to the Calvary and the Resurrection, in her walk towards the future. It is an invitation also to look at, to know and to better love the mother Church of Jerusalem.

5.  To the religious leaders, Jews and Moslems, who have welcomed him and  listened to him, he reaffirmed the openness, the disposition of the Catholic Church to listen, and to collaborate for the good of humankind. In our countries, which are still in  quest of peace and justice, he invited them to act for a just peace. The interreligious meeting which took place in Jerusalem, which could have appeared to some as a failure, was rather a success, because it revealed the deepness of the human wound and tearing in Jerusalem and in the Holy Land. The basis and the conditions of interreligious dialogue in Jerusalem were revealed: in order to bear fruits, it must begin by acknowledging this reality and these conditions. An interreligious dialogue in Jerusalem cannot make abstraction of the human suffering which goes on in the Holy Land, and of the process of healing of which religious leaders are in part responsible. It is in a frank and courageous vision of this common suffering that religious leaders can accomplish their mission and help political leaders in finding their way for a just and definitive peace.

 6.  For us, Churches, the complexity of our ecclesial reality has been uncovered also, and hence the need for a serious reflection, based on the same deep and silent prayer of the Holy Father, in order to have better understanding of the identity and mission of our Church of Jerusalem towards our own faithful as well as towards the whole Church.
 This identity is presently manifested in diversity within the Catholic Churches, which necessitates a better comprehension  and efficiency in the unity of hearts, a mutual acceptance and a common action which leads us to express one same word, the word of the Spirit of God, to our faithful, to the concrete situations of our countries and to the Churches of the world.
This identity is also manifested  in the divisions which should be overcome, as we wait meanwhile the time of God when he will restore unity in his Church. Already a great fraternal cordiality exists among the heads of the Churches in Jerusalem. It should be communicated  to all our clergies and our faithful.. 
This identity implies also communion with all the Churches of the world.  Jerusalem is the mother Church for her own children living with her in this land. This applies also to all her children wherever they are, in whatever situation they be, as history has done and featured them.

7. This is our message on the occasion of the Holy Week, which is a time to pray, to make penitence, to purify oneself and to return to God. May the Risen Lord fill us with His peace and send us His Spirit in order to remain faithful to the mission entrusted to us.
Holy and Happy Easter to all.
Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed.

+Michel Sabbah
Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem