|Contribution of His Beatitude Gregorios III
to the Middle East Session of the
July 23, 2008
“An update on the principal issues that concern the Church in the Holy Land and specifically the Anglican Diocese of Jerusalem, some reflections on the phenomenon of Christian Zionism, and inter faith dimensions. Discussion about how the rest of the Anglican Communion can work alongside the Diocese of Jerusalem in their work for reconciliation and justice in the Holy Land.”
Thanks to His Grace for his kind invitation to attend this conference: it is a great joy to be here. My presence is a symbol of a spiritual communion of our Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarchal Church with the beloved Anglican sister Church.
I would like to express my great appreciation for the work done by the Anglican Church in Jerusalem. I had personal experience of brotherly friendship with the Anglican bishops in Jerusalem from 1974 to 2000, the period of my service as Patriarchal Vicar there.
I would like to emphasize that the most important factor in preserving the Christian presence in the Middle East is the resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. European Churches and especially the Anglican Church have a special role in that regard. We Christians of the Middle East expect these Churches to exercise their influence on their own governments to help Israelis and Palestinians progress further towards a just and lasting peace. Let us not forget the responsibility of the British government towards the realization of a Palestinian state, as a British government once played a decisive role in creating a homeland for Jewish people. The Anglican Communion could support the Anglican diocese and all other Churches in the Holy Land in working for justice and reconciliation.
I would like to say a word about the phenomenon of so-called Christian Zionism, although that phrase seems incongruous to me, as Zionism is a secular ideology in the context of the life of the Jewish people. “Christian,” on the other hand, has a connotation of the vision of Christ towards the whole world. However, Christian Zionism seeks to limit the second coming of the Lord to the framework of a secular political and social event: the return of Jews to Israel. It is a distortion of Christian understanding of the real role of Israel. That is why all Heads of Churches in Jerusalem have repeatedly rejected the presence of the so-called International Christian Embassy Jerusalem.
An understanding more in keeping with Christian tradition would be to link the return of the Lord to his economy, that the Gospel be preached as a sign of salvation of the whole world, as Simeon sang, when he encountered the Lord in the Temple: “For mine eyes have seen thy salvation, which thou hast prepared before the face of all people; a light to lighten the Gentiles and the glory of thy people Israel.” (Luke2:30-32) In the same way, Saint Paul wrote to the Romans (Romans 11:15-16),” For if the casting away of them (Jews) be the reconciling of the world, what shall the receiving of them be but life from the dead?”
+ Gregorios III
Patriarch of Antioch and All the East, of Alexandria and of Jerusalem