"Christ is risen" (Like 24:1-52). Jesus, Lord and Saviour, has risen today, just as He had foretold His apostles. "They will put Him to death, and on the third day He will rise again" (Mt 17:23). Indeed, after the suffering and death of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Churches of Jerusalem witness with one voice and one heart to the glory of His Resurrection as they rejoice in the hope and strength that comes from that empty tomb in the heart of our Holy City. "Christ is risen" (Like 24:1-52). Jesus, Lord and Saviour, has risen today, just as He had foretold His apostles. "They will put Him to death, and on the third day He will rise again" (Mt 17:23). Indeed, after the suffering and death of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Churches of Jerusalem witness with one voice and one heart to the glory of His Resurrection as they rejoice in the hope and strength that comes from that empty tomb in the heart of our Holy City.
Before bearing the cross Himself, Jesus had called upon His disciples to carry the cross and follow Him. He had asked them to walk the narrow path that leads toward salvation. This double vision of the cross and the Resurrection applies to the situation in which we find ourselves today. Our suffering and fear in the past few months has increased in view of the uncertainty of the political situation. We reassure each and every one of our sons and daughters that we share the pain of every family that is deprived of hope as they go through their daily lives without jobs and income or are exposed physically and psychologically to the painful measures that are imposed upon them. Although the closures that are sealing most of the Palestinian territories bring days of deep despair, we ought to remain committed to hope. "I call heaven and earth to witness against you today that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curses. Choose life so that you and your descendants may live" (Deut 30:19).
In this cycle of struggle and suffering, we detect also the way of the cross that will ultimately lead toward the glory of the Resurrection. Thus celebrating Easter means the restoration of our hope that victory of life over death also will be witnessed in the troubled land of ours. This will only happen when violence and discrimination give way for a real peace, between the 'two peoples and the three religions' of this small land where God chose to reveal His divine will. Such a peace can only be secured through mutual reconciliation based on the respect for the dignity and value God has given to all human beings. In no way can this peace be imposed by sheer force: it is nurtured by an honest application of justice and mercy in line with internationally accepted legitimate resolutions for the benefit of the weaker part. Therefore, all of us, who claim faith in the Living God who has overcome death and sin, are called today to witness and work with steadfast determination and persistent commitment. The words of the prophet Isaiah come fittingly to mind: "See the former things have come to pass and new things I now declare: before they spring forth I tell you of them…(Isaiah 42:9) God speaks to us of a time in which the relationship of creation with the Creator is restored, justice is the benchmark of every nation, and the light of redemption shines in the deepest corners of despair.
As all the Churches of Jerusalem celebrate the paschal festivities together this first year of the new millenium, they also affirm that the experience of Easter is one of liberation. It is a triumph of life over death, of peace over violence. Looking at the One God who manifested His power over servitude and death, we address all secular and political authorities to welcome into their hearts the good will and good faith that builds new generations with renewed hope and sustained confidence.
Today, we ask our faithful in the Holy Land as well as all believers world-wide to share with us in the transformation of hearts and minds so that the true joy that comes with the Risen Lord can also infuse their own lives. We pray for an end to the unjustifiable deaths that plague our societies We pray for the immediate end of all collective punishments, especially for the lifting of the closures of Palestinians towns and villages. We pray for the good will of Palestinians and Israelis – of Jews, Christians and Moslems alike – in actively working for justice and peace. We pray for equality so that one no longer sees the neigbour as an enemy but rather as a brother or sister with whom to build a new society. Ours is a message of hope and compassion, of reconciliation and joy. To all, we affirm that Easter is the time to become one voice and one heart before the Lord so that "we may come to know Him and the power of the Resurrection" (Phil 3:10) in a genuine, just and comprehensive peace that no longer disparages one God-given life over another.