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Address of Greeting by His Beatitude Theophilos III, Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem, to the Archbishop of Canterbury at a meeting of the 13 Heads of Churches of the Holy Land on the occasion of the Archbishop’s first Pilgrimage to the Holy Land

Wednesday 26th June 2013

Greek Orthodox Patriarchate

4.00pm, 26 June 2013


Your Grace, dear Archbishop Justin, Dear Mrs Welby,

Your Beatitudes, Your Eminences, Your Graces, Reverend Fathers,

Members of our Brotherhoods,

Beloved Sisters and Brothers in Christ,


We welcome you with joy, dear Archbishop Justin, along with your wife, Caroline, and those travelling with you, on this, your first personal pilgrimage to Jerusalem and the Holy Land.   For the Orthodox Church, this is the season of Pentecost, and so we recall today the unifying gift of the Holy Spirit.   In our liturgy we sing:   “When the Most High came down and confused the tongues, he divided the nations; but when he distributed the tongues of fire, he called all to unity.  Therefore, with one voice, we glorify the All-Holy Spirit.”  (Kontakion for Pentecost)

All Christian Churches and confessions recognise the gift of unity as a fruit of the Holy Spirit, and it is our prayer today, in this gathering here at the Patriarchate of the Heads of the Churches of the Holy Land, that we may know afresh the power of God’s Holy Spirit to unite all faithful Christians in a common mission for the sake of the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.

You come in the footsteps of your predecessors as Archbishop of Canterbury, all of whom have had a special care and concern for the Holy Land, for the Christian community here, for peace and reconciliation, and for mutual respect and genuine co-existence among all our peoples and traditions.  

In particular, we are aware of your long-standing commitment to reconciliation from your years as a residentiary canon of Coventry Cathedral and as co-director of the International Centre for Reconciliation there.   The ministry of reconciliation lies at the heart of the life of a bishop, and this experience will doubtless form a mainstay for your life and work as archbishop.   All of here who bear the responsibility of leadership in our Churches in the Middle East assure you of our prayers and support as you embark on your primatial ministry.

The pilgrimage that you and Mrs Welby are making to the Holy Land is a blessing for you, and we hope that in making this pilgrimage so early on in your archiepiscopate, you will be formed by your prayers at, and veneration of, the Holy Places.   Here our sacred history becomes incarnate, for here God has entered our human life, redeemed our common humanity, and restored our ancient destiny.   May this living reality of the Holy Places be ever at the heart of your devotion, and may your memory of them be always a strength to you.

But let us not forget that your presence among us is an encouragement to the Christian community of the Holy Land.   Of Christian leaders outside the Holy Land, the Archbishop of Canterbury holds a special place and is given unique opportunities by virtue of his office and the relationships with other Christian bodies, with leaders of other faiths, and with governments that few others enjoy.

We encourage you, Your Grace, to keep before the world the life and witness of the Christian community of the Holy Land, and to do all in your power to ensure the future of the Christian community here.   We are native to this region, and the well-being and health of the Christian community are absolutely essential to the well-being and the true character of Jerusalem and the Holy Land.   We Christians in the Holy Land bear witness to the Divine love of humanity, a love that stops at nothing to accomplish our salvation, which is nothing less than the reconciliation between God and humanity, and between all the diverse members of God’s human family.

This witness brings great joy, but it also comes at a cost.   For witness to God’s love is nothing less than witness to the cross of Christ, where God’s love for us was shown so completely.   We Christians in the Holy Land seek to be the Church of the sacrificial love of Christ, and we do our best to promote mutual respect, peaceful co-existence, lasting peace and justice, not just in word, but in deed.

We know that the relationship between the Church of England and the Anglican Communion and our respective Churches represented here this afternoon has always been good.   If our brothers will permit me, we wish to say how important the relationship between the Patriarchate of Jerusalem and the Anglican Communion has been for both our Churches.

And yet we can all say here today that your concerns are our concerns, just as we pray that our concerns will be your concerns.   As Saint Paul so eloquently reminds us:  “If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honoured, all rejoice together with it.”  (I Cor 12.26)

It is our common witness to the reconciling work of the cross that unites us, exemplified for you, Your Grace, in the Cross of Nails of Coventry, and for us in the very place of our Lord’s crucifixion where we shall pray together on Friday.   The cross is our inspiration as well as our protection, for, as we read in the Letter to the Ephesians:  “…our struggle is not against enemies of flesh and blood…but against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.”  (Eph 6.12)

In token of our shared witness to the cross of Christ, we wish to bestow on you, dear Archbishop Justin, the cross of the Order of the Brotherhood of the Holy Sepulchre.   May the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ be always your protection as well as your strength, and may this bind you to us in prayer and solidarity.

On behalf of the Heads of the Churches, let us once again welcome you and Mrs Welby.   We assure you of our prayers for your pilgrimage to the Holy Land, and we pray for God’s blessing upon you in your primatial ministry.   And we look forward to welcoming you often to Jerusalem and the Holy Land, which is your spiritual home.

Thank you.



The Archbishop of Canterbury’s response to words of welcome by His Beatitude Theophilus, Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem, on behalf of the thirteen heads of Churches in Jerusalem, 26 June 2013


Your Beatitudes, Your Eminences, Your Graces,

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,  


It is very difficult to cause an English Archbishop to be lost for words, but you have today. I am lost for words as to how to say thank you sufficiently for this great honour of this award and also for the generosity of your gifts.

I am particularly pleased to be here during the season of Pentecost. This is, as you say quite rightly, the moment of the gift of the spirit of God, who unites His people and unites the church in His mission in the world, and to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ around the world. To be in Jerusalem at this time is very very special. When I was enthroned as Archbishop of Canterbury on 21 March, I introduced a new aspect of the service, at the beginning of the service, in which a lay woman asked me some questions when I arrived at the cathedral. And the question was, ‘With what confidence and with what authority do you come?’ And I said, and my answer was, ‘I come (as Paul wrote to the Corinthian Church) in much fear and trembling, knowing only Christ Jesus and Him crucified.’ And so I say I come to you today in much fear and trembling, knowing only Christ Jesus and him crucified. But we know that the grace of God is sufficient for us in all our needs, and his strength is made perfect in our weaknesses.

The priorities for my primacy at Canterbury, for me personally, are threefold. One is the renewal of prayer and of the religious life, the monastic life, across the Anglican Communion. The second is of reconciliation, and among my colleagues today is my successor at Coventry, Canon David Porter, who has much experience of the difficult aspects of reconciliation in Northern Ireland where he was involved in the front line with the disarmament of the violent groups there, and who himself has much experience of the difficult aspects of reconciliation in Northern Ireland where he was involved in building relationships with the paramilitary groups to bring an end the violence there. As Christians, reconciliation is the gospel: reconciliation with God, by the grace of God and the sacrificial love of Jesus Christ. And so that is the second of my guiding priorities.

The third one is the proclamation of the gospel, evangelism. The sharing of the good news of Jesus with a world that is increasingly in pain and breaking. And the pain and brokenness and burden of the world is one that you suffer here more than most people in the world. The Christian communities which have been here since the time of Jesus, our savior and our Lord himself, are under great pressure. Many of them have been killed in Syria and in other places. The violence of the region is a threat to all our communities, and I can only tell you that we pray here for you in this region as you bear the burden of innumerable conflicts and wars, and we long to do all we can to support you.

For many, many years, since at least the time of Archbishop Davidson, it has been part of the ministry of the Archbishops of Canterbury to support in every way possible yourselves and your predecessors as they struggle with the pain of living through the history of the Holy Land.  When I had the great honour and privilege of meeting His Holiness Pope Francis twelve days ago, we spoke of you, Your Beatitude, we prayed for you, and we spoke of all of you and of the struggle that you are facing in this land.   (His Holiness has a great sense of humour. He said, ‘I am more important than you.’ And I said, ‘Yes of course, Your Holiness.’ And he said, ‘I was enthroned two days before you.’)

When I met His Holiness Pope Tawadros two days ago, again we spoke of the suffering of the region, of the pain that the Churches bear, and that so many of you struggle with. And there is no one in this room who has a community which has not suffered. So we pray for you and I assure you I will do all I can to support you and to support you with the position that the Anglican Communion has throughout the world, with its links to governments, but also as a fellow church seeking to follow our Lord Jesus Christ.

In the end our work is all by grace.  It is the grace of God.  St Therese of Lisieux said often, ‘It is all grace.’  Every day I begin by praying for the grace of God, knowing that only by the grace of God can we live through the day, can we serve him in his humility, can we know that humility and love to others. You have the extraordinary joy and pain of being the stewards of the holy places. All we can do to support you, we will. We will continue to plead your cause with our governments, and in public and in parliament, and in every possible place around the world. We will pray for you, and the honour of being in any way associated with you is one that overwhelms me and brings me almost to tears. I thank you for your hospitality.

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