Message of solidarity with the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem
Letter to His Eminence Metropolitan Cornelios of Petra, Locum Tenens of the Greek
Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem, 22 July, 2005
Warm ecumenical greetings from the World Council of Churches in Geneva.
Thank you for your letter of July 15 to Rev. Christopher Ferguson. He has
passed on the letter to us and he has kept us informed of the crisis that has confronted
the Patriarchate in these past months.
We have kept the Patriarchate and all faithful of your Church in Jerusalem and
the Holy Land in our thoughts and prayers during this period of travail. We appreciate
that the Holy Synod and the Brotherhood have attempted to address the crisis
within the framework of ecclesiastical law and thus worked to avoid schism
and promote the unity of the church even in the face of division and conflict. To
this end the Patriarchate submitted their actions to the Pan-Orthodox Synod
which ratified your actions.
When the State of Israel refused to recognize Irineos I as Patriarch in the years
following his election, the World Council of Churches called on Israel to respect
the integrity, authority and freedom of the church to choose its own leadership
and to govern church affairs without the interference of the state. Once again we
find that the State of Israel is violating this basic principle by continuing to recognize
Mr Irineos as Patriarch in spite of your Church's decision to dismiss him.
We note that the Governments of Jordan and the Palestinian National Authority
have withdrawn their recognition of Mr Irineos Skopelitis.
Your Eminence, please be assured that the World Council of Churches stands
firmly with the Patriarchate in rejecting this unwarranted interference with the
freedom of the Church to choose her own leadership. We will raise this matter
directly with representatives of the State of Israel and all the governments concerned
in keeping with the principles we expressed previously.
We are equally concerned that the Israel police and security forces have violated
the sanctuary of the Monastery of the Patriarchate. In keeping with the principle
stated above it is up to the Church to decide who has authority within her
institutions, churches and monasteries. The State has no right even under the pretext
of an invitation by a leader who has been dismissed by the ecclesiastical
authorities to violate the sanctity and sanctuary of the Monastery. We will raise
this matter with the Israeli authorities calling on them to respect the leadership
of the church and the sanctity and sanctuary of churches, Holy Places and monasteries.
Your Eminence, in responding to these two difficult matters we are aware that
the current crisis confronting the Patriarchate is even more complex and touches
on other areas of historic significance. We take this opportunity to express our
concern over the transfer of property in Jaffa Gate knowing that this land deal
has deep consequences on various levels - for the status quo of Jerusalem, for relationship
between Christians and Muslims, for the whole Christian community,
and for the relationship between the Patriarchate and the Arab Palestinian faithful.
It also raises fresh concern for a just peace in the Israel-Palestine conflict.
We have been informed of the appointment of advocates charged with annulling
the land deal and securing the property. We are of course aware of the many pressing
issues facing the Patriarchate including the up-coming patriarchal elections.
Given the gravity and urgency of the situation, we would be remiss if we did not
pledge our help for immediate action to annul the land deal and secure the status
quo and the future of the Holy City of Jerusalem.
We would also like to extend our hope and encouragement to you, the Holy
Synod, the Brotherhood and all the faithful so that God might use this crisis as
an occasion for transformation and renewal for the "Living Stones" of the Holy
Land and so that the Palestinian Christian community may flourish and prosper
with all God's beloved servants. May the Patriarchate, by God's grace, emerge
from this crisis with new strength and vision.
Your Eminence, in closing allow me to reiterate the concern and prayers of the
World Council of Churches for the well-being of the Church and the unity to
which it is called. The Greek Patriarchate of Jerusalem can count on our solidarity
Peace and Grace to you.
Truly yours in our Lord
and Saviour Jesus Christ,
Rev. Dr Samuel Kobia