Address by His Beatitude Theophilos III, Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem, to the Archbishop of Canterbury at the shrine of Golgotha in the presence of the Heads of Churches of the Holy Land
Friday 28th June 2013
Church of the Resurrection
9.00am, 28 June 2013
Your Grace – dear Archbishop Justin, Dear Mrs Welby,
Your Beatitudes, Your Eminences, Your Graces,
Archbishop Isidoros and the Brethren of our Monastery here, Reverend Fathers,
Beloved Sisters and Brothers,
We are gathered, dear Archbishop Justin, at the most important place in the world. It is precisely here that history was judged, and that humankind was saved, for here the sacrificial and redeeming blood of our Lord Jesus Christ was shed. As our Lord says of his crucifixion on this spot in the Gospel of John: “Now is the judgement of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” (John 12.32—33)
Today you stand here not only as a pilgrim, but as a participant in, and as an eye-witness to, this experience. We Christians believe that we do not simply remember the past, as it were as some kind of distant, historic memory; we believe that, in recalling our sacred history in prayer and liturgy, we are present in the very moment of our sacred history.
This is why it is so great a blessing that we have been charged to be the servants and the guardians of the Holy Places. For in these Holy Places the faithful may share fully in the salvific events of the birth, life, ministry, death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.
This very place of the crucified Christ is an inspiring reminder to us of our vocation as witnesses of the apostles, and as successors of our Lord’s own ministry. It is no accident that your visit coincides with our celebration of Pentecost, when the Church was revealed, and when the Father sent the gift of the Holy Spirit to enable the first Christians in this city to carry on the work of Christ himself.
You join that band of eye-witnesses, and yours is an awe-inspiring responsibility. Your pilgrimage and our shared time with you here on Golgotha create a new bond between you and the Christian community of Jerusalem and the Holy Land. We look to you for your help and support as we seek to build here a new future for the human community in our region at a time of great difficulty and challenge.
But this is not a one-way relationship, and we assure you of our concern for you and your primatial ministry, and the challenges that you face both in Great Britain and in the Anglican Communion throughout the world. Just as we know that we can count on you, we wish you to know that you can count on us as you seek to proclaim the Gospel and to deepen the Christian values that lie at the heart of British society and culture.
Our work is similar, for both in Great Britain and in the Middle East, we must find ways for unique and diverse communities to live together peacefully and with mutual respect. We do this on the basis of some fundamental values that are of significance, we believe, for the well-being of society, and we face this task together, even though we are separated by distance and culture.
We pray for you, Your Grace, in this Holy Place, and we ask God for the blessings of the Holy Places of our beloved Holy Land for you, for all the peoples of Great Britain, for the Church of England and the Anglican Communion. We embrace you with open arms, and we look forward to welcoming you often to Jerusalem, the mother of us all.
The Archbishop of Canterbury’s Reflection at the shrine of Golgotha, Church of the Resurrection, Jerusalem, 28 June 2013
In this place we are very forcefully reminded of the foolishness of the gospel, as Jesus calls it in 1 Corinthians. ‘We proclaim Christ crucified a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to gentiles, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.’ We come to a place that is, as His Beatitude has already said, the ‘centre of the world’. But the sense in which it is the centre of the world not because it is in one of the world’s oldest and most beautiful cities, not because this church is one of the most wonderful churches on earth, not because there is art that rivals anything on earth: but because here a man died on a cross. And when we do that, we are compelled as church leaders, to a simplicity that says, ‘All this was done for me, what, Lord, shall I do for thee?’
All our efforts are put into a different perspective, all our work is seen as small, compared to the great work of God himself dying on a Cross on this place so that our sins may be forgiven, rising from a Tomb just by here so that we may have life eternal, and the Father sending the Holy Spirit so that we are equipped and have the power to be his Body, his Church. This pilgrimage has, as always, been about learning; but for me personally learning particularly about unity – about unity with the churches here, with the churches round the world, who are united by only one thing: this place, this crucifixion, this resurrection. That is the one thing we have in common: crucifixion, resurrection, ascension, sending of the Spirit.
I reflect this morning – as I and my fellow pilgrims go back to a country where the majority of people under 25 see no importance to the Church, no relevance to the Gospel – that if we go back to that country and speak of Christ crucified, they will see the truth of God. And if we proclaim ourselves, as Paul says, we are mere fools.
And so I thank you, Your Beatitude, for the wonderful way in which you have led us spiritually in this pilgrimage through our four meetings over the last few days. In each of them you have opened to us the Gospel. I thank you for that. It is a gift beyond treasure, and we will pray for you, and I ask you now that in a few moments that you will pray for me and for my colleagues as we go from here.
The Archbishop then asked the Patriarch to pray personally for him and for his ministry.