His Beatitude Michel Sabbah, Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, was the featured speaker at the Journey to Holiness Celebration Conference in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

His Beatitude Michel Sabbah, Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, was the featured speaker at the Journey to Holiness Celebration Conference in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.  Speaking to over 6000 Catholic parishioners of the diocese, His Beatitude shared his observations of the Arab Christians living in Palestine.  He spoke about his bretheran in the Holy Land and their daily experience of suffering and violence and, not unlike Jesus Christ, undertake a courageous journey every day that leads to holiness.  The fraternal relations among the thirteen Christian Churches in the Jerusalem represent the Mother Church of all Christianity and thus maintain communion with Christians around the world. In closing he noted that for Christians, Jerusalem represents Christ’s love for all of us and His love will contradict all obstacles toward holiness and it will be the cradle in which freedom will be born.   His Beatitude spoke at the invitation of his Excellency Bishop Robert Carlson.  The Diocese of Sioux Falls enjoys a partnership with the Latin Church in Zababdeh, a town approximately 90 minutes north of Jerusalem.

Sioux Falls
August 10, 2001

Brothers and sisters in Christ

 I am glad to be with you to day, to pray with you, to listen with you to the word of God and to share with you your journey to holiness. Your father and bishop, Most Rev. Bishop Carlson, when he visited Jerusalem, on a pilgrimage and a visit of fraternal solidarity, he invited me to come to Sioux Falls, to share in your journey to holiness. I accepted the invitation. It is always good indeed to live moments of fraternal communion in Jesus Christ our Lord in whom we believe and in whom we live, wherever we are, in the Church of Jerusalem or in the Church of Sioux Falls.

 The Church of Jerusalem, is also your mother Church. Jerusalem being the place of our roots as Christians, where every thing started for every Christian in the world. In Jerusalem Jesus started his human life, taught, suffered his passion, died and resurrected from the dead. In Jerusalem, he sent the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost, and so the Church, all Churches, were born on that Pentecost day in Jerusalem. Therefore, Jerusalem, the mother of all Churches, is and should be in communion with all churches of the world.

Today, we are in Jerusalem, thirteen churches, Catholics, Orthodox and Protestants:  Thanks to God and through our good fraternal relations, every church or family of churches guarantees the communion of Jerusalem with the families of churches in the world, so as to keep Jerusalem a true mother in communion and in love with all its sons and daughters in the world.

The church of Jerusalem is a small church, (300,000 for a total population in Israel, Palestine and Jordan of 14 million people). We are the “small flock” living the mystery of Jesus, a mystery of refusal and rejection. When Jesus lived in our land, 2000 years ago, he remained a sign of contradiction, as the old Simon has predicted to Mary the mother of Jesus; a sign of contradiction, which means a cause of demolition of many, and a cause of resurrection of many. So the church of Jerusalem remained until today, in a very particular way, the image of her master: a small flock and a sign of contradiction in the same land in which Jesus was a sign of contradiction. We remained also, and we are until today, as he said to his disciples in the first chapter of the book of Acts, his “witnesses in Jerusalem”.

We too, in Jerusalem, we had a similar spiritual journey, as we have started our synod of the Catholic Churches in the Holy Land, on the eve of Pentecost in 1995. Our journey continued during five years. The conclusion came with the pilgrimage of the Holy Father to our Churches in the Jubilee year 2000. Our reflection was centered on the person of Our Lord Jesus Christ. We believed in him, we accepted his message, since 2000 years. And now 2000 years after, we asked ourselves how was our belief in him? How was the consonance of our daily life to his teachings and how it should be?

Every life is a journey to holiness, because every life is guided by God, our Father, who loves us and leads us, sometimes through ways which we can understand and accept, and sometimes, through ways which we cannot understand and which require from us a lot of courage to accept. Every day is a journey to holiness, because our God is the Emmanuel, the one who dwells with us, who cares for us, for every one, and manifests in various ways his love to each of us. Our attitude as believers is the attitude of a permanent listener to hear or to see any sign of the love of God in our life. On Mount Tabor, which we celebrated few days ago, on the sixth of August, Jesus manifested his glory to three of his apostles, Peter, James and John. Commenting on this manifestation of his divine glory, he prepared the apostles to the difficult day of his death. Because the cross also was a manifestation of his divinity, a manifestation of the power of his love.

The cross is the only way to resurrection.

This is a basic truth in our life as Church, here in Sioux Falls as well as in Jerusalem. In these days, in Jerusalem, we live this truth in a very acute way. Our daily life today is on the cross, through the various difficulties caused by the political conflict between Israelis and Palestinians: killings, demolition of houses, siege imposed upon villages and cities, limitation of freedoms, confusion and anarchy; all these are various aspects of our daily cross. We are in the conflict, in a situation of injustice, imposed upon us since long years, sharing in the struggle of all the population to find justice and peace. The face of the Church of Jerusalem is a torn face, torn by pains and sufferings. With that, and through love for all, all those who suffer, all those who are the cause of our sufferings, those who kill, who demolish, who limit our freedom, through this love, living on the cross, we bear in our hearts and minds the resurrection, and we keep alive our hope in God Almighty and lover of all. All of them we love, those with whom we suffer and those who cause our sufferings, because, despite all evil which they can do they remain the image of God, the children of God, loved by God their Creator and their father, and because despite any evil they can do, they remain unable to demolish the love of God in themselves: strengthened with this vision of God and his love for us all, we pray, we act, and we wait the day when God will respond to the prayers of thousands and thousands who implore him for the peace of Jerusalem, and implore him to make his own love the dominating sovereignty over all human conflicts and disputes, in the city he chose to be the city of redemption and reconciliation of all humankind with himself.

This is our journey to holiness through sufferings, instability, war and quest of justice. The mystery of the cross in all its acuity is lived by the church of Jerusalem. For your journey to holiness, the Church of Jerusalem, in its sufferings and in its hope, is a sign: you look at Jerusalem, not only to try to help her, to alleviate the suffering of her sons and daughters, but also to see in her the light and guide of your own journey towards holiness amidst your own sorrows and joys. The cross is the only way to resurrection.

You have started a journey to holiness in this diocese of Sioux Falls. During these days, you have of course asked yourself, is holiness possible to every one? Is every one called to it or is holiness the proper of few persons only among the best, and is not for all of you. Pope John Paul II in his letter with which he introduces the Church in the third millennium, “the Beginning of a new millennium”, gives a clear answer to that question. He says: “holiness does not consist in any extraordinary action which only some genius can do. Every one is called to holiness, and ways to it are numerous and varied. I do not hesitate to say that all pastoral journey should lead to holiness”.

Brothers and sisters, your bishop and father, bishop Carlson, has kindly invited me to participate in your journey towards holiness, and to give a humble contribution, a simple word coming form Jerusalem. The contribution of Jerusalem in your journey towards holiness is simply to present the face of Jesus which remains alive in the city and all the land, as a sign of contradiction, calling all, without any discrimination, to contradict all obstacles towards holiness, even the ways of history itself: the present history of Jerusalem is a history of conflict, two peoples Israelis and Palestinians. The result is violence, death and more hatred. But we believe that it is in this terrible cradle that freedom will be born as well as love and holiness. So in Sioux Falls also holiness will be born and will contribute to the holiness of all the Church.


+ Michel Sabbah
Patriarch of Jerusalem