On the 7th/20th of January 2014, the day after the feast of Theophany, the President of Romania, His Excellency Mr Traian Basescu, on a visit to the state of Israel, visited the Patriarchate accompanied by members of the Romanian Government and by the Romanian Ambassador to Israel, Mrs Andreea Păstârnac.
The Romanian President and his retinue were received by His Beatitude Theophilos, Patriarch of Jerusalem, and Hagiotaphite Fathers. In His welcoming address to the President, His Beatitude spoke in English.
and decorated him with the Grand Cross of the Order of the Knights of the Holy Sepulcher for the enhancement of his pious disposition toward the Holy Sepulcher, also offering him a fine icon of Theotokos Jerusalemite.
Touched, the President offered His Beatitude a beautiful icon of the Nativity of Christ, crafted in an Orthodox Monastery of Romania, thanking Him for the honour bestowed upon him as a representative of the Romanian people, consisting of Orthodox faithful by 90%, and having close ties to the Orthodox Church.
“In the aftermath of the communist regime”, Mr Basescu said, “the state of Romania is trying to reestablish its relations with the Church of Romania, which is considered its integral part”.
Extending his thanks to His Beatitude over the manner in which He represents Christians in the Holy Land, especially in Jerusalem, the President kindly asked that the Church of Jerusalem look favourably on the as yet unresolved problem between the Patriarchate of Jerusalem and the Patriarchate of Romania.
In His response, His Beatitude said that “we have already reached a preparatory agreement, which we expect to be signed by His Beatitude Daniel, Patriarch of Romania”. He went on to add that “We have decided in favour of establishing closer ties between the two Churches and have therefore sent a Hagiotaphite student, now Archimandrite Dositheos, to study in Romania with a scholarship”.
His Excellency the President, accompanied by His Beatitude and members of the Hagiotaphite Brotherhood, amid ringing bells, proceeded to venerate at the Church of the Resurrection, the Holy Sepulcher, the Katholikon and Sacristy of the Church of the Resurrection, where he was received by the Hegoumen, the Elder Sacristan of the Holy Sepulcher, His Eminence Isidoros, Archbishop of Hierapolis, in the presence of Templar Fathers. There, he was also offered an icon of the Aedicula of the Holy Sepulcher.
HIS BEATITUDE ADDRESS OF WELCOME TO HIS EXCELLENCY TRAIAN BASESCU THE PRESIDENT OF ROMANIA
Respected Members of your Delegation,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is a great honour for us to welcome you to the Holy Land and to our Patriarchate of Jerusalem, which is the Mother of all the Churches. Most especially we are pleased that you are here during this festive season in which the Church celebrates the Feasts of the Nativity and the Theophany of our Lord Jesus Christ, the time of the revelation of the True Light that enlightens all peoples (cf. Lk 2:32). We welcome you as a pilgrim and as a faithful son of our Holy Orthodox Church, which has such deep roots in the history of your nation and people.
The Patriarchate of Jerusalem is the embodiment of our sacred history, and, as you know well, Your Excellency, the Patriarchate, together with the Brotherhood of the Holy Tomb, have been entrusted by Divine Providence from the earliest days of the Church with the spiritual mission to be guardians and servants of the Holy Places. In this way we understand that we do not represent ourselves alone, but the whole Orthodox world, and we rejoice that so many pilgrims come from your country for the deep refreshment of the soul that so many find here. Indeed as Orthodox Christians from Romania they are able to participate fully in the worship and religious festivals of the Holy Places.
Moreover, Jerusalem holds a unique place in the human imagination, and the Patriarchate ensures that all those who wish to have access to the Holy Places are able to do so, including many Jewish and Muslim pilgrims, in addition to Christians of many confessions.
This is the responsibility that is laid upon us because of our unique position in the Holy Land. The Patriarchate of Jerusalem enjoys the full respect and recognition of the three political authorities of this region – the State of Israel, the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, and the State of Palestine – and this legal status is clear and safe-guarded. The Patriarchate serves as the representative leader of all the Christian communities of the Holy Land, and is the principal Christian institution that can speak on behalf of the unique integrity of the status of Jerusalem. In this important work we know that we can count on the support of the faithful of Romania.
On the occasion of your visit, Your Excellency, we recall with gratitude the close relationship that has long existed between the Patriarchate of Jerusalem and the people of Romania. It was in 1682 that our esteemed predecessor, Patriarch Dositheos, established the first printing press in any Orthodox country, publishing in the great cultural city of Laşi important theological and liturgical books. We are united by important bonds of faith and affection which we must always be careful to foster and deepen.
We wish you, Mr. President, every success in your mission to our region, and we ask you to convey to your beloved nation and people our Patriarchal greetings and blessing. And in recognition of the close historic and spiritual relationship between the Patriarchate of Jerusalem and Romania, we wish to bestow upon you the decoration of the Great Cross of the Holy Tomb.
We thank you for your visit.
Patriarch of Jerusalem
From the Secretariat-General