On the occasion of the Great Jubilee of the year 2000
Message from Heads of Christian Churches in the Holy Land
Message of the Patriarchs and Heads of Christian Churches in the Holy Land, on the occasion of the Great Jubilee of the year 2000
Beloved Brothers and Sons,
1. “Grace and Peace’ from God the Father and from Jesus Christ be upon you” (2Tm1:2). We address this message to you on the occasion of our common opening in Bethlehem of the Year of the Jubilee. We address it to you and to the whole world, which looks to our Holy Land and to our Churches to see in them an image of the first Church, from which the joyful proclamation of the Gospel burst forth to the entire world.
The message of the Year 2000 invites us to concentrate upon the essential and basic meaning of the Jubilee, that is, the commemoration of the Incarnation of the eternal Word of God in the Holy Land, according to the Gospel of St. John: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God… And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us”. (1:1 and 14).
In the Bible “jubilee” bears the meaning of a return of man and creation to the Creator, and thus the destruction of all the various chains binding enslavement. “And ye shall hallow the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants”(Leviticus 25:10). Liberation means the freedom of each man from slavery and injustice at the hands of his brother, and freedom of each from himself, form his own sins and from whatever may be evil in him.
2. The Jubilee calls us to repentance. Therefore we sincerely confess that we, in our path together in the Holy Land, have not preserved the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace, and that our fidelity to the prayer of Our Lord at the Last Supper has not been complete: “That they may all be one; even as Thou, Father, art in Me, and I in Thee, that they may also be in Us, so that the world may believe that Thou hast sent Me” (John 17:21). God has drawn our hearts close together in these days, and so we do not wish to be prisoners enchained in the sins and faults of the past, but we wish rather to persevere in our common way, and to beseech God to grant us more love and unity, so that we remain “in one spirit and in one mind” (1 Cor. 1:10).
3. Our hearts must be one so that our Christian presence may be a faithful witness to the message that we bear. Our hearts must be one so that we may speak one word to or children with one voice, fortifying their faith and animating their hope, each in his own church and all bearing the same message in one Holy Land and one nation. Our message and our identity in our societies is that we, in Palestine and in Jordan and in every Arab land, are called to live in a Christian and Muslim Arab society; and in Israel we are called to live in a society which is Christian, Muslim, Druze and Jewish. And this is God’s will for us: that we live as Christians here, a part of our societies and not separated from them, bearing with all our brothers and their difficulties, and building a more honorable life for ourselves and for all. We must not be afraid of or disturbed by any problem there may be. No, we must confront it with what the Spirit of God gives us and with the strength which comes form love.
4. May we, on the way of peace, bring about justice and peace, according to the word of Our Lord: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God” (Mt.5:9). We desire that our societies be established on the basis of justice and equality in rights and duties. Jerusalem is the heart of either warfare or peace. We would see the same sovereignty given to our two peoples and three religions in Jerusalem, with the same rights and responsibilities, and a special status for Jerusalem in order to guarantee all the historical rights of the churches and be blessed by or to live in Jerusalem.
5.We address greetings to all our brothers the Muslims in Palestine, Jordan, Israel and the rest of our Arab countries: God has willed that we be together and share in one civilization nourished by our two religions: Christianity and Islam. Our message is that we are to build our societies in common, one in hand and in heart, and that each of us fully respects the honor and feelings of his brother.
We address greetings to the Jewish people, with whom we live today struggling in the way of justice and peace. We have lived together since the seventh century, and we Jews, Christians, and Muslims, share the faith of our father Abraham, father of the prophets. Today our history is in our hands. Therefore let us construct it according to the chant of the angels in the skies of our land: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men of good will”.
6. We address our last word to the Christians of the world and to pilgrims coming to us from all the churches. The church of Jerusalem opens her arms to all the churches, for Jerusalem is the Mother of Churches and “the source and giver of life, in which every Christian is born”.
Our celebration of the Great Jubilee entails the intensification of our efforts here in the Holy Land, so that our Churches may remain faithful to their call and their message, and that our Churches may remain faithful to their call and their message, and that our faithful remain true to their faith and to their freedom and aspirations in times when difficulties multiply day by day. Let us admit neither fear nor disturbance. Jesus said: “Ye have tribulations in the world, but trust Ye, for I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
We ask God that in this coming year He brings about goodness and righteousness, and a new beginning of freedom and honor. With the blessing of God, able to do all things, the Father, the Son and Holy Spirit, the one and only God. Amen.
Patriarchs and Heads of Churches of Jerusalem
Bethlehem, December 4, 199