President Rivlin visits Latin Patriarchate in Jerusalem in honor of Easter
(Communicated by the President’s Spokesperson)
President Reuven Rivlin this morning visited the Latin Patriarchate in Jerusalem’s Old City in honor of Easter, where he was welcomed by Apostolic Administrator of the Latin Patriarchate Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa, and Greek Orthodox Patriarch Theophilos III, along with other senior leaders from the Christian community.
President Rivlin began by expressing his appreciation for the warm welcome he had received, and spoke of the importance of the festivals of Passover and Easter that the Jewish and Christian communities had celebrated respectively in the last week. He noted however, that “while we celebrate these new beginnings and festivals of freedom, we are forced to face the return of a very old evil”. The President spoke of his sadness “at the news of the innocent blood spilled; the men, women, and children, whose lives were destroyed in the brutal terror attacks against the Egyptian Christian community”. He said that he had written to Egyptian President, Abdel Fatah el-Sisi, to express his condolences following the attack, and added, “Israel appreciates the firm stand Egypt is taking against terror.”
President Rivlin stressed, “I say to you here, our Christian brothers of Jerusalem, our thoughts are with you at this difficult time. We have all seen the pictures from Syria; I visited some of the injured being treated in Israeli hospitals. What has happened there to the Christian community - and to the whole country - is a stain on all humanity.”
He reassured the Christian leaders, “The Jewish people know better than any what it means to pray in fear, and suffer from terrorism, and I want to say to you that Israel will stand firm to protect your freedom of worship, your security, and the security of your holy sites. As I told the Pope when I had the honor to meet him in the Vatican: Israel remains committed to these freedoms as a basic foundation as a Jewish-Democratic state.”
He added, “This is as true today as it was nearly 70 years ago, when David Ben Gurion declared our independence. And it is as true today as it was 50 years ago, when Israel was able to reunite the city of Jerusalem, and Jews returned back to the Old City, the holy city of Jerusalem.”
He concluded, “From inside these ancient walls, we can celebrate our faiths together, we can grow our communities together, and – in the footsteps of the past - we can build a shared future, together.”
Apostolic Administrator of the Latin Patriarchate Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa welcomed the President, and noted, “It is a long tradition that the President of Israel receives the heads of the Christian churches at his residence towards the end of the civil year,” and added that in the last three years, the President had also “wanted to meet all of us in our respective houses”. He said, “We want to thank you for this sensibility towards the Christian presence in the Holy City, and in Israel in general. We appreciate your solidarity and clear words towards Christians – just to remind of one: your double visit to the site of Tabgha in the Galilee after the sad incident there a few years ago.”
He noted, “It is important to meet the Christian communities, specifically here in Jerusalem. It is true we do not have big numbers, but we are an integral part of the identity of the city, without which Jerusalem couldn’t be the same.”
He spoke of the many pilgrims who came to Jerusalem to celebrate Easter, “from Egypt to Mauritius, from Europe to Asia, from the Americas to Russia - Jerusalem was full of people with different colors, dresses, languages, traditions, and liturgies, which I am sure is impossible to find elsewhere in the world.” He noted it was “fascinating to see the Israeli policemen arrive to the Holy City to help with the festivities,” where he said they helped direct the different faith groups to their holy sites.
He noted the difficulty in celebrating against the background of turmoil in the region, but said, “This is our faith, and there is no faith without hope.”
Greek Orthodox Patriarch, Theophilos III, also addressed the event and spoke of his appreciation for the President’s visit, and of the importance of Jerusalem as a place that “Embraces a multi-religious and multi-ethnic mosaic.” He noted that “Jerusalem can be an example to all, of harmonious coexistence and a synthesis of traditions and civilizations.”
He noted, “Your visit comes at a time when our region is experiencing despicable acts of violence against the human family. We appreciate your compassion and deep respect for human life, and your sensitivity to human experience. In these days of our common celebrations, we see the deep relationship that unites Jews and Christians as the children of Abraham, along with our Muslim sisters and brothers. This coming together of these feasts this year is a wonderful providential sign of hope.”
He added, “In our world of confusion and peril, Jerusalem and the Holy Land are the only place where people can take refuge,” and said, “This has been clear in theses holy days when we have welcomed thousands of pilgrims from East and West.”