One week after the visit of the most important Christian communities to St Saviour’s Convent for Easter greetings, on Tuesday 18th April it was the turn of the friars of the Custody of the Holy Land to return the favour. The Custos of the Holy Land, Fr. Francesco Patton, led the Franciscan delegation to the Patriarchates of the Orthodox churches that celebrated Easter one week after the Catholics, on Sunday 16th April, following the Julian calendar.
These events, which are ritually repeated after each Easter and Christmas, are invaluable occasions for the heads of the Churches of Jerusalem to meet, exchange greetings and update one another on the state of relations between them in the city and in the Holy Land.
In the streets of the Old City, the kawas of the Custody of the Holy Land guided the friars in a procession to the Orthodox patriarchates in this order: first the Greeks, then the Armenians, the Ethiopians, the Syriacs and, lastly the Copts, with the friars receiving a warm welcome at each one.
At the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate, the Father Custos greeted His Beatitude Teophilos III and all the Greek Orthodox community, quoting a fragment of the Urbi et Orbi message by Pope Francis pronounced on Easter Day. Fr. Patton also insisted on the power of the message of reconciliation that Easter delivers and on the importance of being the bearers of this message to the inhabitants of Jerusalem and the whole world. After having stressed how precious the collaboration between the Custody and the other Christian communities of Jerusalem is, Fr Francesco concluded by announcing the good news: "Christos Anesti!"
On the second visit of the morning, the friars were received by the Armenian patriarch Nourhan Manougian. Here, the Custos recalled that when the resurrection is celebrated, a new world and a new humanity are possible. After extending his wishes for a Happy Easter, Father Francesco expressed his solidarity with the Armenian Church for the recent attacks by religious fanatics, the sign of a worrying climate for all the Christian communities in Jerusalem.
Then at the Ethiopian Orthodox convent, the friars were received by the religious Abba Zebeaman Samuel, representing Bishop Gebre Selassie. Fr Francesco offered his Easter greetings to his Ethiopian brothers and exhorted them to unite to pass on the message of Easter hope to all the Christians who are in difficulty in Jerusalem and in the world.
At the Syriac-Orthodox convent, the Franciscan delegation was received by Bishop Jakub Jack. In his speech, Father Patton emphasized how Easter is the core of our faith, hope and charity.
On the last visit to the Coptic Patriarchate, near the 9th Station of the Cross on the Via Dolorosa, the Father Custos offered his Easter greetings to Bishop Antonious. Recalling the many Egyptian pilgrims who came to Jerusalem for the Orthodox Easter, Father Patton hoped they could return to their communities strengthened by the Lord Risen and capable of bearing testimony in a context that is often hostile.
Filippo De Grazia