On 23 May 2013, His Beatitude Patriarch Theophilos III of Jerusalem began his visit to the Russian Orthodox Church. According to the tradition at the Orthodox Church every newly elected Primate of the Autocephalous local Orthodox Church worldwide, He visits officially all the others sister Orthodox Churches.
The delegation, accompanying the Primate of the Church of Jerusalem, consists of Metropolitan Kyriakos of Nazareth, Archbishop Aristarchos of Konstantina, secretary general of the Holy and Sacred Synod of the Orthodox Church of Jerusalem, Archbishop Theophylactos of Jordan, Patriarchal Representative to Bethlehem, Archimandrite Stephanos, representative of the Patriarch of Jerusalem to the Moscow Patriarchate, Archimandrite Galaktion, Superior of the Monastery in Ramallah, and hierodeacon Athanasios. The delegation was officially welcomed in Moscow by hierarchs and clergymen.
On May 24, 2013, the commemoration day of St. Cyril and Methodius, Equal-to-the-Apostles, Teachers of the Slavs (Patriarch Kirill’s name day), and the Day of Slavic Literature and Culture, His Beatitude Patriarch Theophilos III of Jerusalem and His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow celebrated the Divine Liturgy at the Patriarchal Cathedral with the participation of a big number of hierarchs and clergymen. Then they led a procession with the cross from the Cathedral of the Assumption to the Monument to St. Cyril and Methodius in Slavic Square. The same day the chairman of the Russian Federation Government, D. A. Medvedev, met with His Beatitude Theophilos, of Jerusalem, at the Church of Christ the Savior.
On 25 May 2013, the two Primates marked the centenary of canonization of the holy martyr Hermogen, Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia. The afternoon His Beatitude Theophilos, visited the church of the Resurrection, the representation of the Church of Jerusalem in Moscow.
On 26 May 2013, His Beatitude Patriarch Theophilos with his accompany visited the Laura of the Holy Trinity, St. Sergius and the ‘Sofrino’ Artistic Production Enterprise.
On 27 May 2013, President of the Russian Federation, Vladimir Putin, received His Beatitude Patriarch Theophilos III of Jerusalem and His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow at the presidential residence. In the evening, both Primates arrived in St. Petersburg.
On May 28, His Beatitude Patriarch Theophilos and His Beatitude Patriarch Kirill, with a big number of clergymen participate in the consecration of the Cathedral of St. Nicholas in Kronstadt. Later His Beatitude Patriarch Theophilos, arrived at the Valamo Monastery of Transfiguration. The monastery brethren met His Beatitude to the sound of bells. He venerates the shrines of Valamo Monastery’s Cathedral and went to St. Elijah’s skeet of the stavropegic Monastery of the Transfiguration on the Valaam Island.
On May 30, 2013, His Beatitude, venerated shrines in the northern capital city of Russia, as the Cathedral of St. Isaac and the Cathedral of Our Lady of Kazan. On May 30, 2013, His Beatitude Patriarch Theophilos III of Jerusalem, who was on a peace visit to the Russian Orthodox Church, departed for Jerusalem.
On 10 February 2013 in Damascus, there took place the enthronement of His Beatitude John X, Patriarch of the Great Antioch and All the East, elected to the Patriarchal See of the Orthodox Church of Antioch on 17 December 2012.
In his enthronement speech delivered after the Divine service in the Church of the Holy Cross in Damascus, His Beatitude Patriarch John X stated: We are certain that Syria will find a way to salvation through dialogue and a peaceful political solution. He said he will work for peace and pray for unity.
Celebrations will continue in Beirut on February 17. Invited to attend are delegations of the Local Orthodox Churches.
February 1 marked the fourth anniversary of the enthronement of His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia. All archpastors of the Russian Orthodox Church lead by its Primate celebrated Divine Liturgy at the Cathedral of Christ the Savior.
The funeral ceremonies on the occasion of the demise of His Beatitude Patriarch Ignatius IV of Great Antioch and All the East
Present in the Cathedral were also Mr. Michel Suleiman, President of the Republic of Lebanon; Mr. Najib Azmi Mikati, Prime Minister of Lebanon; heads and representatives of non-Orthodox confessions, members of the diplomatic corps, accredited to Beirut; numerous clerics and laymen of the Patriarchate of Antioch; and public figures of Lebanon and Syria.
On 10 December 2012, an official funeral service of the late Patriarch Ignatius IV took place in the Cathedral Church of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate in Damascus which served by the Metropolitan Saba of Basra- Horan and hierarchs, numerous clerics and laymen of the Patriarchate of Antioch.
His Holiness Patriarch Maxim of Bulgaria Orthodox Church passed away in the Lord
On 6 November 2012, His Holiness Patriarch Maxim of Bulgaria, the oldest Primate of a Local Orthodox Church, passed away in the Lord.
The future Primate of the Bulgarian Church was born on 29 October 1914, in the village of Oreshak of the Troyan Municipality, Lovech Province, Bulgaria, into a family of a pious craftsman.
In 1935 he graduated cum laude from the Sofia Theological Seminary and in 1942 – from the Theological faculty of the St Clement of Ohrid University in Sofia.
At his last course, on 13 December 1941, he took monastic vows with the name of Maxim and was ordained hierodeacon on December, 19. He started serving as a metropolitan’s deacon in Lovech, but soon was appointed teacher and tutor of the Sofia Theological Seminary. He held this post from 1942 to 1947.
On 14 May 1944, he was ordained hieromonk and on 12 October 1947, elevated to the rank of archimandrite and was appointed protosingel of the Dorostol-Cherven metropolia.
In 1950 the Holy Synod of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church resolved to nominate him rector of the Bulgarian Representation in Moscow. He had served in Moscow for almost six years, until the end of 1955.
Upon his return to homeland he was appointed secretary of the Holy Synod of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church (he held this post from 1955 to 1960) and chairman of the editorial board of the Synodal periodicals (1957 – 1960).
On 30 December 1956, he was consecrated bishop of Branitsa.
On 20 October 1960, he was nominated Metropolitan of Lovech.
The Church–National Council of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church, which was held on 4 – 8 July 1971, elected Metropolitan Maxim of Lovech to the Patriarchal Throne.
May the Lord give rest to the soul of His recently deceased servant, His Holiness Patriarch Maxim of Bulgaria, in the dwelling of the righteous.
By the Orthodox tradition, all Primates of the Local Orthodox Churches visit their brothers in other Local Churches after election. His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia is officially visit the Patriarchate of Jerusalem on November 9-14, 2012, at the invitation of His Beatitude Patriarch Theophilos III of Jerusalem and the Holy Synod of the Orthodox Church of Jerusalem.
The focal point of the visit will be pilgrimage to the greatest holy sites of the Christian world. Patriarch Kirill concelebrated with Patriarch Theophilos III the Divine Liturgy at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
Also He visited the Basilica of the Nativity of Christ in Bethlehem, toNazareth,Gethsemane,MountTabor, Tiberias and other places linked with the earthly life of our Lord Jesus Christ. His Holiness Patriarch Kirill will consecrate the cathedral in the Gorny Convent and conduct the Great Blessing of the Waters in the Jordan River at the site of the baptism of the Saviour.
His Holiness Patriarch Kirill is to meet with the leaders of Israel, the Palestinian National Authority and the Kingdom of Jordan.
His Holiness Patriarch Kirill’s book “Freedom and Responsibility” in the Hebrew language will be presented. The Primate of the Russian Church will visit the Yad Vashem Memorial.
Accompanying His Holiness will be the choir of the Sretensky stavropegic monastery. The choir will sing at the divine services and give concerts of the Russian religious music.
The visit of His Holiness will serve to the strengthening of brotherly bonds that have united the Orthodox Church of Jerusalem and the Russian Orthodox Church for centuries.
H.B. PARTICIPATION TO THE “ARAB SPRING & PEACE IN THE NEW MIDDLE EAST” INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE- CONSTANTINOPLE
Istanbul, the 7th of September 2012.
His Beatitude Theophilos III address to the Institute for the Middle East Studies of Marmara University and The Center for the Islamic Research of the Turkish Religious Foundation, in participating to the International Conference:
“The Arab Spring and Peace in the New Middle East: Muslim and Christian Perspectives”.
“Your Excellency Prime Minister Erdogan,
Your Excellency Minister Gurmez,
Ladies and Gentlemen.
For millennia, the Middle East has been a special place. Here great cultures have arisen, and here great religious traditions have met and shaped civilization. Judaism, Christianity, and Islam have, quite literally, grown up together here over centuries. It is important for us to remember that Christianity is not alien to this region, but native to it. We are part and parcel of the unique cultural and religious make-up of the Middle East.
In spite of the fact that communities here are designated by religious affiliation, and so appear to the outsider as distinctly separate from each other, let us not forget that they share a common history, as well as common linguistic and cultural roots and social customs. In this commonality, we begin to see the force of what is called symbiosis – a genuine living together in which many conventional categories are crossed as the people of this region live their daily lives, create families, do their work, seek to be faithful to their religious tradition, and are loyal to their national allegiance.
In just this environment of symbiosis do we see the “ecumenical and unifying spirit of Orthodox Christianity” in action. The mission of the Church in this region is, in part, to sustain and support this unique symbiosis so that all our peoples may live in peace, security, and justice.
The Rum Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem is the oldest continuous religious institution in the Middle East, and we have been faithful to this mission, conscious of the power of the “unifying force” of Orthodox faith and culture.
This unifying force of Orthodox faith and culture is founded on an understanding of the nature of the Orthodox Church. The nature of the Orthodox Church is based on a relationship of autocephalous and autonomous Local Churches that fully acknowledge the integrity of each Church, and therefore have succeeded over the centuries to live with a vibrant “unity in diversity.” This diversity by no means lessens the strength of the fabric of our unity.
This means that the gift of cultural, linguistic, and national diversity which so characterizes the Local aspects of a State of a group of people, is not a threat to the unity of the region but a testimony to the true nature of the One.
There is no doubt that our common humanity is today confronted with harsh forces of injustice, disrespect and even humiliation, This is all taking place under the cover of political and religious umbrellas and in the name of All-mighty God.
We are experiencing fast growing political polarization resulting in religious polarization. Violence, aggression, hatred and bigotry, which produce unrest and insecurity, have taken the place of peace and justice, which produce security and prosperity.
Nevertheless, we believe that conflict, prejudice, hatred and injustice can be turned into peace, mutual respect, love and righteousness; for the Holy Scriptures commands us to: “turn away evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it”(Ps. 34).
The Middle East region has historically and religiously been declared a meeting place and a host of the three monotheistic religions; that is Judaism, Christianity and Islam. This is due to the fact, that the Middle East is inextricably associated with the sacred history of these faiths.
We look to recall and evoke that Christians constitute an essential element in the composition of the social fabric and continue to contribute effectively to various walks of life in our communities.
This fact stems from a two thousand year old heritage in which we have played key roles in the civil, cultural and political realities of the Holy Land.
This legacy was built on mutual understandings, respect and tolerance between the Church and its surroundings, especially Islam. The culmination of such understanding has been shaped and formed by “al-Ohda al-Omariya” between the two great ethno-religious leaders: Khalipha “Omar bin al-Khattab” and Our predecessor Patriarch of Jerusalem Sophronius. This almost 1400 year-old agreement is still respected until today. What is the essence of this covenant that continues to resonate its impact in our contemporary reality? It is precisely the spirit of this covenant which allowed enough room to overcome and diffuse areas of human predicament and thus allowing for harmony between Christians and Muslims to flourish as well as heal historic turbulences and political unrest. We believe it is time for the Spirit of “The Covenant of Omar” to extend its boarders and manifest itself in our modern and present times.
Let us take advantage of all such gatherings, to encourage those who strive for peace to come and join forces with us, in order to promote peace and justice in our region and beyond, for the sake and benefit of the generations to come; for; “blessed are the peace-makers” (Matth, 5, 9).
We have gathered at this conference to listen to one another. Throughout this conference we have been hearing speakers remind us, quite rightly, that it is a perversion of the fundamental tenets of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam to use these traditions to justify acts of violence and terrorism, and that it is the duty of those who do understand religion as a tool for peace to condemn violence quickly and without equivocation. We are called so to teach and preach that the faithful of our traditions understand clearly the role of religion for the building of just and lasting peace in our world.
In the cause of resisting violence and promoting peace-building, the role of religious leaders, especially the clergy, is crucial, We do not believe that the clergy should behave like politicians; clergy have different, but equally serious ethical, theological and pastoral responsibilities.
But we do consider that, just as political leaders must be shaped by the moral principles of their religious traditions, in the same way religious leaders have a role in forming congregations and communities of faithful people to exercise responsible citizenship. This role manifests itself at the grass-roots level through educating our congregations and the general public on the importance of peaceful co-existence; in providing social services that focus on the equality of all people regardless of religious or ethnic differences; in taking strong positions in denouncing violence; in leading and participating in public and private dialogue between different religions and ethnicities; and in supporting initiatives, institutions and leaders who are committed to the same social and civic good.
We thank you for this immense effort. We pray to the almighty God to enlighten in our deliberations and endeavors”.
Patriarch of Jerusalem
INITIATIVE OF THE HEADS OF THE ORTHODOX CHURCHES OF THE MIDDLE EAST CONCERNING THE SITUATION OF THE CHRISTIANS IN THE REGION TO THE EUROPEAN UNION
We Christians have been living in the region of the Middle East since ancient times. Therefore, we consider that all efforts aiming at ousting us are unreasonable and unjust. Even when other religions conquered our land, we have always managed to adjust ourselves and find ways of symbiosis and peaceful coexistence with them.
However, the recent increasing influence of extreme fundamentalist elements in the region, directly jeopardizes the lives of Christians in their ancient cradles. We witness daily aggressions against Christian places of worship, killings of innocent people, violent acts and atrocities against Christian properties, as well as violations of the most elementary human rights of Christians. Christians are thus forced towards expatriation. Thousands have already left their ancient cradles and have become refugees in various parts of the world, seeking more security.
We call upon the European Union and all those willing to intervene, in order to put an end to this blatant injustice. More specifically, we call upon them to exercise their influence in order to protect all aspects of religious freedom and worship in the region. Moreover, we would appeal to them to preserve and save from desecration and pillage the places of worship and the Christian cultural monuments in this tumultuous land, e.g. in Syria and the occupied Cyprus.
These temples and monuments are part of the world cultural heritage, therefore belonging to Humanity as a whole.
As Christian leaders, we call upon all the religious and political leaders and every person of good will to contribute to the peaceful coexistence of all the Communities in the Middle East.
We reiterate the commitment of our Orthodox Churches to the Middle East Council of Churches and pursue through it the strengthening of relations among all Christians of the Middle East and the development of friendly, harmonious and peaceful relations among the believers of the Abrahamic religions.
As Heads of the Orthodox Churches we cannot remain indifferent towards the challenges facing our region, in view of the political and socio-economic changes taking place there nowadays. We therefore underline the need for a peaceful solution of all conflicts, through constructive dialogue.
Moreover, we stress that Syria is a country in which churches have always co-existed side by side with mosques, in a unique symbolism of symbiosis, fraternity and mutual respect, bringing people closer together. As Heads of Churches of the Middle East, Alexandria, Antioch, Jerusalem and Cyprus, we reiterate our commitment to support all the efforts and necessary initiatives, aiming at restoring peace and tranquillity in that country.
Brussels, 18th September, 2012
†Pope and Patriarch of Alexandria and All Africa Theodoros II,
†Patriarch of Antioch Ignatius IV,
†Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos III,
†Archbishop of New Justiniana and All Cyprus Chrysostomos II
ADDRESS OF THE HEADS OF THE GREEK ORTHODOX CHURCHES OF THE MIDDLE EAST TO THE PRESIDENT OF THE EUROPEAN COMMISSION MR. JOSE MANUEL BARROSO
Brussels, 17th of September 2012.
We would like first of all to thank you personally and your colleagues for receiving us in you office today.
We have come here in our capacity as the spiritual leaders of the Christians of the Middle East, including, of course, Cyprus.
The actual purpose of this visit to you, Mr. President, is to raise awareness and discuss the unpredictable situation of the Middle East Christians, who in fact constitute an inseparable part of the indigenous local and regional population.
We are profoundly concerned about the predicament of the many thousands of Syrian refugees, among them a great number of Christians, who have taken refuge in countries like Lebanon and Jordan, countries that are under our spiritual jurisdiction.
Needless to say that we have been actively engaged, as church leaders, in helping and alleviating the terrible plight of the refugees, without any discrimination.
We, as members of the Middle East Council of Churches, have joined all our forces in order to financially and materially assist the refugees. For instance, a container of medical supplies, clothing and food from the Church of Cyprus is on the way to the Za’ atari refugee camp, in Jordan.
Our Eastern Orthodox Church Middle East Office in Amman is fully operational in this respect.
We are here to share with you our own experience and make our appeal to every person or organization of good will for the need of the Christian presence in the Middle East, especially in Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Palestine and, of course, let us not forget Egypt and Africa. It is already obvious that the Middle East and its broader area has turned into a volcano in progress.
Ours is the moral and religious responsibility to manage to defuse, if not to stop the explosion of this politically and to be more precise, religiously explosive situation. We stress this because this constitutes part and parcel of the various concrete initiatives that we have already undertaken.
We firmly believe that the European Union and other international bodies have the ability to intervene and to put an end to the unnecessary bloodshed of innocent people and to any form of violence that is taking place supposedly in the name of God.
In this regard, please allow us to suggest the following actions that should be considered; a) promotion of education through relevant projects, i.e. schools, Universities and Cultural Centers for the academic study of comparative religion, b) combating prejudice and bigotry and in many cases cultural and religious exclusiveness, which are the symptoms of polarization, discrimination and hatred against the other.
The mission of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchates/Churches of the Middle East and Africa is of paramount importance, because our eastern Christianity does not bear the traces of imported and ‘alien culture’, that is to say Crusades and Colonialism. On the contrary, our compatriots and co-citizens have found us there. This is how we have culturally and historically grown up together. And this is why we reject the notion of ‘Clash of Civilisations’. ”
Once again, we would like to assure you, Mr. President, that we are willing and available, to cooperate with you and your services in working for peace and stability in our Middle East region and beyond.
Patriarch of Jerusalem