The delegations of the Orthodox Churches, according to tradition, followed one another at the Monastery of St. Savior for Easter greetings to the Franciscan community. At the heart of the speeches by the Heads of Churches was mutual help, caring, and prayer for the tragedy that just happened in Sri Lanka.
First came the Greek Orthodox. Theophilus III, the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem, remembered the victims in Sri Lanka and recalled the essential role of Jerusalem’s Christian communities: “The Holy Places are a sweet consolation for all of the Christians of the Earth: many pilgrims come here exhausted and they experience a new energy that renews and strengthens them.” The Custos of the Holy Land, Fr. Francesco Patton, in his speech, quoted the Sri Lankan tragedy, adding “we must let the Resurrection become the source of our capacity to love: this is important for the people who come to these places.”
The Coptic and Syriac communities attended this meeting together with the Custody of the Holy Land. The Metropolitan Anba Antonius, who heads up the Coptic community, recalled that for us Easter must be an important feast because “Christ with the resurrection changed history, also opening our lives to eternal life” and invited us to pray for the Persecuted Christians as “we are one body and when one member is sick, everyone suffers.” The Syriac delegation, with its representative, stressed the importance of the weekly Easter for all Christians “despite the calendar differences, we continue to focus on what unites us.” The Custos of the Holy Land, Fr. Patton, reminded them to pray that the Lord will bring people of peace [to this place] to create dialogue and peace, as happened when St. Francis met the Sultan Al-Malik Al-Kamil, for which the Franciscans are celebrating the 800th-year anniversary.
The Armenian delegation was guided in its visit by the Patriarch of Jerusalem, Archbishop Nourhan Manougian, who urged those present not to forget the Notre Dame event along with what happened in Sri Lanka. “Violence is never the way to solve problems,” he warned. “But we can work on education with new generations and dialogue so that it does not stop only at the leaders but extends to the masses; only in this way can this immoral behavior be replaced by love.”
The final visit was that of the delegation of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, led by the Apostolic Administrator Mons. Pierbattista Pizzaballa, who followed that of the Custody’s Discretorium last week at the Latin Patriarchate. “Nowadays, every year the most important Christian celebrations are marked by tragedies, almost as if the birth, death, and resurrection of Jesus is a disturbance,” began Pizzaballa, recalling that despite the tragedies, it is Christ who won the world and all that comes from him, wins. “May our witness guide the pilgrims who come from all over the world,” he said. “And may your service become a reference for all to defend the Christian character of Jerusalem. Because we can become joyful witnesses of the Risen Christ.”
The latter was accompanied by the Melkite Patriarchal Vicar of Jerusalem, Mons. Yasser el Ayyash, who added that evil will never have the last word and only if there is hope will we vanquish it. “We live in a contradiction and we allow ourselves to be surprised and driven by the Holy Spirit to announce the newness of reality,” said Fr. Patton, “so that we can be witnesses of the Risen One here where we have been called.”
The visit by the Apostolic Administrator ended with greetings at the St. Savior infirmary, where the elderly friars of the Custody live and are cared for.