Easter Message
23 April 2000

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

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


“Why are you looking among the dead for one who is alive?”  (Lk 24:5)

for the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000

From Their Beatitudes the Patriarchs and Heads of the Christian Communities
in Jerusalem
Our Beloved Brothers and Sisters in Christ in the Holy Land and the World

The last few months have been encouraging to us all in view of the
manifestations of solidarity from our Christian family. We inaugurated the
celebrations of the third millennium together on 4 December 1999 when the
Heads of all the traditional Churches in Jerusalem joined thousands of
people from our land and other parts of the world at Manger Square in
Bethlehem in a Common Celebration. This special event helped encourage large
numbers of pilgrims to travel to the Holy land in order to witness to Christ
and renew their faith in those places from where our Christian faith spread
forth to the whole world.

Shortly thereafter, we were richly blessed with the visit of many Heads of
Churches. In early January 2000, a great many of the Patriarchs and
Archbishops of the Greek Orthodox Church world-wide came to the Holy Land to
celebrate Christmas together in Bethlehem. Later that month, in mid-January,
the spiritual leader of the Armenian Orthodox Church, His Holiness Karekin
II, Catholicos of All Armenians, visited us as well.  And it was only a few
weeks ago that we welcomed in our midst His Holiness Pope John Paul II and
tens of thousands of pilgrims from around the world who accompanied him on
his spiritual pilgrimage to our land.

All these events have given witness to the life and presence of the local
Christian Church in our land and strengthened hope for our future despite
the arduous journey along the pathway of peace.

The reason for the Millennium is the anniversary of the birth of the Holy
Child in Bethlehem. Now, as we approach the commemoration of the Passion,
Death and Resurrection of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, we have the
opportunity to focus attention on the basic tenets of our Christian faith.

We remember today St Paul affirming to us, “All I want is to know Christ and
to experience the power of his Resurrection, to share in his sufferings and
become like him in his death, in the hope that I myself will be raised from
death to life” (Phil 3:10-11). The world might disappoint human beings. It
might disillusion them at times when it attempts to denigrate the eternal
values that Jesus exemplified to us throughout his ministry. But we are
called to be witnesses of the Risen Christ. We need to demonstrate our
commitment to Christ in clear and meaningful words.

Like Pontius Pilate in front of Jesus, many people ask today, “And what is
truth?” (Jn 18:38).  As witnesses to our faith, we have to spell out our
conviction that God’s truth is vital to our daily life.  Jesus said, “I am
the way, the truth, and the life” (Jn 14:6).  By following the truth, we
must emphasise the importance of sincerity and the need for compassion
amongst human beings. As such, we ask all of you, clergy and laity alike,
individuals or organisations, to love one another, to understand each other
and to work together in order to preserve Jesus’ teachings and to uphold
those principles for which he gave his life. Then, we will indeed prove that
his death on the Cross was not in vain, nor was the power of his glorious
Resurrection diluted over the centuries.

All these events took place in the Holy City of Jerusalem which is at the
heart of our Holy Land. We hope that all religious and secular authorities
will work unstintingly to remove those obstacles that come in the way of a
comprehensive and just peace for our region.  And no matter how difficult
the times ahead, we encourage you to remain steeped in your faith so that
you can “have the righteousness that is given through faith in Christ (Phil
3:9) and that you can truly proclaim Jesus’ statement to his disciples, “Be
brave, I have defeated the world!” (Jn 16:33).  Then, you can truly cry out
aloud in jubilation Christ is Risen!  He is Risen Indeed!  Hallelujah!

Their Beatitudes the Patriarchs and Heads of the Christian Communities in

+ Diodoros I, Greek Orthodox Patriarch

+ Michel Sabbah, Latin Patriarch

+ Torkom II, Armenian Orthodox Patriarch

Fr Giovanni Batistelli, Custos of the Holy Land

+ Anba Abraham, Coptic Orthodox Archbishop

+ Swerios Malki Mourad, Syrian Orthodox Patriarchal Vicar

+ Gabriel, Ethiopian Orthodox Archbishop

+ Riah Abu El-Assal, Anglican Bishop

+ Mounib Younan, Lutheran Bishop

+ Lutfi Lahham, Greek Catholic Patriarchal Vicar

+ Boulos Sayyah, Maronite Patriarchal Vicar

+ Gregorios Boutros Abdul Ahhad, Syrian Catholic Patriarchal Vicar

+ Andre Bedoghlian, Armenian Catholic Patriarchal Vicar