This Easter, the patriarchs and the leaders of Christian Churches in Jerusalem have sent an Easter message and have exhorted people everywhere, despite violence erupting in their region, to not “fall into dispair.”
Today, Vatican Radio published the message, which expresses the leaders’ ‘deep distress’ over the violence being perpetrated against those remaining true to their faith, and acknowledges the sad reality that such violence is being done in the name of religion.
Those most directly affected, the message states, includes members of some of the region’s ancient Christian communities, as well as minority populations, in Iraq, Syria, and Egypt, in particular.
“There is no true religion which advocates violation of the human person or the victimization of minority groups in society” the leaders decried.
“We condemn such actions in the strongest possible terms. Those who engage in such barbaric behaviour dehumanize not only their victims, but themselves.” they state.
On a hopeful note, the message concludes, saying: “The joyful proclamation of the Resurrection at dawn on Easter Sunday assures us that the last word lies not with violence and inhumanity but with God’s purpose of love, justice and hope.”
Below is the full text of the message. (D.C.L.)
“He has given us new birth into a living hope through the Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” (I Peter 1.3)
We, the Patriarchs and Heads of Churches in Jerusalem, send our Easter Greetings and Blessings to all people everywhere in the name of our risen Saviour, Jesus Christ.
In the face of so much that threatens to devalue or diminish human life, the hope that springs from the Resurrection is rooted here in Jerusalem. The message of Easter has shaped the very identity of this Holy City over many centuries. Here is located the site of the Empty Tomb, the place where God’s sovereignty over death and the powers of darkness was manifested in the raising of Jesus from the dead. As a consequence of this reality, the location where the Resurrection took place is not merely an object of archaeological curiosity but remains a living focus of Christian worship. It is a place where God’s grace has been manifested in numerous ways down the centuries and for that reason alone it deserves respect.
Along with all people of good will, we are deeply distressed by the level of violence still being falsely perpetrated in the name of religion in parts of the Middle East and elsewhere in recent times. Members of some of the ancient Christian communities in this region – especially in Egypt, Iraq and Syria – have been among those most directly affected, along with other minority populations. There is no true religion which advocates violation of the human person or the victimization of minority groups in society and we condemn such actions in the strongest possible terms. Those who engage in such barbaric behaviour dehumanize not only their victims, but themselves.
In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ we urge people everywhere not to fall into despair. The very existence of this city of Jerusalem is paradoxically a sign of hope that God’s kingdom of peace, love and justice will prevail. There are indeed signs of darkness around us which make this a painful time to live through, but the darkest part of the night is often shortly before the dawn. The joyful proclamation of the Resurrection at dawn on Easter Sunday assures us that the last word lies not with violence and inhumanity but with God’s purpose of love, justice and hope which runs like a thread throughout history and will find its ultimate fulfillment in the coming fullness of his Kingdom.
The Lord is risen! He is risen indeed!
Patriarch Theophilos III, Greek Orthodox Patriarchate
Patriarch Fouad Twal, Latin Patriarchate
Patriarch Nourhan Manougian, Armenian Apostolic Orthodox Patriarchate
Fr. Pierbattista Pizzaballa, ofm, Custos of the Holy Land
Archbishop Anba Abraham, Coptic Orthodox Patriarchate, Jerusalem
Archbishop Swerios Malki Murad, Syrian Orthodox Patriarchate
Archbishop Aba Embakob, Ethiopian Orthodox Patriarchate
Archbishop Joseph-Jules Zerey, Greek-Melkite-Catholic Patriarchate
Archbishop Mosa El-Hage, Maronite Patriarchal Exarchate
Archbishop Suheil Dawani, Episcopal Church of Jerusalem and the Middle East
Bishop Munib Younan, Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land
Bishop Pierre Malki, Syrian Catholic Patriarchal Exarchate
Msgr. Georges Dankaye’, Armenian Catholic Patriarchal Exarchate