Latin Patriarch


The Church in the Holy Land:
Commitment and expectations of Christians

(Lecture given by Patriarch Michel Sabbah on May 18, 2005 at the Jesuit University of Saint Joseph in Beirut, Lebanon)

1. Introduction and statistics
In the Holy Land and in Jerusalem itself, there are thirteen Churches and thirteen heads of Churches: three patriarchs (Greek Orthodox, Latin, and Armenian Orthodox) and ten archbishops or bishops. There are six Catholic Churches: Latin, Greek Catholic, Maronite, Syrian Catholic, Armenian Catholic, and Chaldean. There are five Orthodox and Oriental Churches: Greek, Armenian, Syrian, Coptic, and Ethiopian. There are two Protestant Churches: Anglican and Lutheran. All of these Churches have jurisdiction in three countries: Palestine, Jordan, and Israel. (l)

In the Holy Land, in Jerusalem, there is also another important presence, that of Father Custos of the Holy Land, i.e. to say, the provincial superior of the Franciscan Friars whose presence goes back to the 13th century and is especially tied to the Holy Places. According to protocol, the Custos of the Holy Land is the fourth religious head in Jerusalem after the three patriarchs.

The total number of Christians in these three countries is approximately 400,000 faithful, 200,000 in Palestine and Israel and 200,000 in Jordan, on a total population of more than 15 million inhabitants: 5 million in Jordan, 3 million in Palestine (the West Bank and the Gaza Strip), and 7 million in Israel.

In my talk, I will mention the characteristics that are common to all of our Churches. However, to describe the particular characteristics of each of these Churches, it would be appropriate to ask someone from within their ranks to explain them. For example, to speak about the Greek Orthodox Church of Jerusalem, with all of the challenges and difficulties it has faced since the end of the Ottoman Empire until today, it would be important to listen to someone from within the Church.

2. The Church of the Holy Places
The first and principal characteristic of the Church of Jerusalem is that it is the Church of the Holy Places. In The General Pastoral Plan, (2) a Plan that is common to the six Catholic Churches ever since the year 2000 and the fruit of a Synod in which all the Churches were involved, it is stated in the Introduction:

"Our Land is blessed because it is the place where Revelation and the History of Salvation unfolded. It is also, and before all else, the land where the Divine Incarnation took place, the sacred space which. witnessed the greatest mystery in human history, the mystery of God who made His dwelling among us .... It was here that the Holy Spirit descended upon the apostles on the day of Pentecost, the day on which the first Christian community was born in Jerusalem."

"Since that time, the Church of Jerusalem, called the Mother of all Churches, has persevered in her earthly pilgrimage in the Holy Land, assuring a faithful and uninterrupted presence for two-thousand years of history in the land of Christ."

"Since the first centuries, our Church has lived in permanent communion with the Universal Church [and continues to do so today despite the divisions: the Catholic Churches with the Universal Catholic Church, the Orthodox Churches with the Orthodox Churches throughout the world, and the Protestant Churches with their respective Churches]. It contributed greatly to the life of the Church in various areas, in particular, in the liturgy, which developed around the Holy Places, in the development of religious and monastic life, which spread throughout our countryside and our deserts, and in the area of thought and preaching, especially with Saint Justin of Nablus, (3) Saint Cyril of Jerusalem, (4) and Saint John Damascenes (5) joined in the 20th century by Blessed Marie de Jesus Crucifie (Mariam Bawardi), a nun from the Carmel of Bethlehem, originally from Ibilline in Galilee, and by two Venerables: Simaan Sroujii, a Salesian from Nazareth, and Marie Alphonsine Danil of Jerusalem, the foundress of the Sisters of the Rosary."

3. A small Church

From a human point-of-view, the Church of Jerusalem is a small Church. Despite its central role and its importance for being in the land where Christianity was born, it has never been a big Church. It has always borne within itself the mystery of Christ who was not recognized or accepted on this earth, 2000 years ago as well as today. Nevertheless, the present community of Christians is a community of witnesses to Jesus in his land.

We have said that the total number of Christians in the three countries is about 400,000 on a total population of 15 million. Around Jerusalem and throughout the Palestinian Territories, there are only 50,000 Christians. And in Jerusalem itself, there are only some 14,000 on a total population of 700,000 inhabitants (230,000 Palestinians and 470,000 Jews). It should be noted that, when compared to all the other Arab countries in the Middle East, it is the one that has the smallest number of Christians.

Moreover, we know that, throughout history, the Church of Jerusalem was never the first among the Churches. During the first four centuries, the bishop of Jerusalem was a suffragan of the Archbishop of Caesarea, which was then the capital of the Roman province, and this archbishop, in turn, depended on the patriarch of Antioch. It was only in the 5th century (in 431) that the Council of Ephesus gave the bishop of Jerusalem the title and rank of Patriarch. In the universal Church, he then became the fifth Patriarch after Rome, Constantinople, Alexandria, and Antioch. He has always been, and remains today, the last on the list and in the various protocols. Also, from an historical point-of-view, except for the Constantinian interlude (from the 4th to the 7th century), Jerusalem has always been a non-Christian country.

To be sure, being "small" and humble in the eyes of men is related to the mystery of the Redemption and of the Cross, of which the Church of the Holy Land is meant to be the bearer throughout the centuries.

The Church of the Holy Places, small and not numerous, it is also a very diversified Church: 13 Churches, as was said earlier, each one having its own history, thought, spirituality, language, liturgy and traditions. Unfortunately, over time, this diversity became a factor of division and separation which pains us all and detracts from the credibility of our witness.

"Additionally, our Churches live in a religiously pluralistic society in which each religion (Christianity, Judaism, and Islam) considers the Holy Land an inseparable part of its human, cultural, national, and religious identity." (6)

4. The Church in the political conflict

The Church of Jerusalem lives today in a country where a conflict between Palestinians and Israelis has been going on for more than a century. Begun at the end of the 19th century, it is still taking place. It is true that all of the Churches in our Arab countries of the Middle East, in Iraq especially, are experiencing a period of political and economic instability. In fact, it is because our countries are far from having attained or guaranteed true freedom for their citizens that they have gone through and/or will again go through periods of trouble and violence. But today the Holy Land is, in a particular way, a land where there is hate and death, a land where the torture of thousands of prisoners, the demolition of houses, the confiscation of land, etc., are taking place. An Arab newspaper in Nazareth, AI-Ittihad, carried an article on April 15, 2005 stating that one-third of the Palestinian population has passed through the Israeli prisons between 1967 and today. (7) It is therefore a population that is living not only in cantons but also in political prisons or in besieged cities that have also become large prisons.

Accordingly, the Church, that is to say every Christian, belongs to this population of prisoners because, in this conflict, the Church has always shared in the human suffering that is taking place: the occupation, the deprivation of freedom, the walls, the prison-cities, the price paid for regaining freedom, the price of blood, the loss of life, the prisons, the torture, as well as the general difficulties of life that arise as direct consequences of the conflict. This is the context in which Christians must try to live as Christians and as Church. The closure of the city of Jerusalem since 1993 for the inhabitants of the Palestinian Territories and, today, the siege imposed on all Palestinian cities make it difficult for everyone, Christians as well as Muslims, to live not only their daily lives but also their religious lives, for these measures prevent freedom of movement for all activities, including religious gatherings. Consequently, access to the Holy Places is not allowed, except for those holding special permits from the Israeli military authority. The movements of priests and pastors trying to carry out their pastoral religious duties have become difficult due to delays of several hours at the military checkpoints before getting through, to fear of not being able to get through, and to humiliations. One of our priests saw his mother, whom he was accompanying to the hospital from Bethlehem to Jerusalem, die before his eyes as they waited at the military checkpoint for the soldier to give him permission to advance.

This year (sic 2005), during Holy Week, hundreds of military permits were granted for Palm Sunday and for the Way of the Cross on Good Friday, which allowed a good number of the faithful to come to Jerusalem from the parishes in the Palestinian Territories. But they needed permits. We believe that it is not normal to oblige people to obtain a military permit in order to go to church and pray. As for the faithful in Jordan, the same circumstances prevent them also from coming to Jerusalem to take partin whatever religious events are being held there. Access from Gaza is also particularly difficult: for Holy Week and the feast of Easter, we were unable to obtain a permit for a priest to go to Gaza.

It is a conflict that makes daily life and religious life very difficult. It also makes for an unsure future for the children. On the one hand, all of this breeds a will to survive and to resist despite the difficulties, hence the formation of Christian groups at the national level and, at the same time, the creation of an overall pastoral program to help people live these painful times. But, on the other hand, this also provokes the phenomenon of emigration. The mayor of Bethlehem, in an interview given on April 15, 2005, described the difficulties of daily life. Bethlehem has become, with the halt in tourism, (8) like a deserted and dead city. He spoke of 3,000 Christians, on a total of 30,000 inhabitants in the region of Bethlehem, who have emigrated since the year 2000 because of the general political and economic instability of the country. In that same interview, the mayor also recalled that 4,500 Muslims had left Bethlehem. In other words, both categories of people are emigrating, Christians as well as Muslims. However, the number of Christians is so small that the departure of a single person has repercussions not only on their overall number but also on the future of Christians in the Holy land. In general, our population figures remain stable, with only a slight increase, but this normal increase is more than offset by the number of people who emigrate. For example, the city of Bethlehem today has 30,000 inhabitants, of whom a little more than a third are Christians (c. 13,000); in 1948, Christians in Bethlehem numbered 6,000 on a total population of 8,000.

5. The Church, the State, and society

Like everywhere else in the Middle East, the Church is present in society through its activities, particularly in the fields of education, health, and social work. Religious education, Christian or Muslim, is obligatory in all of our Christian schools, for all students, each according to his/her religion. In the government schools in Palestine, the Palestinian Authority has .asked the different Churches to create an Ecumenical Committee to draw up a new catechetical textbook. Six years ago, this Committee published a textbook for 10 classes. The book for the last two classes will be published this year. This manual has become obligatory in the State schools as well as in the private schools. In Jordan, directives were issued some ten years ago stating that the State schools had to assure the Christian religious education of Christian students. For the time being, because of the lack of a Jordanian textbook, the indecision of the ministry, and obstacles placed by certain school principals, the directives have not yet been implemented. Hopefully, they will be some day.

In Palestine as in Jordan, there is a Christian presence in public life, a bit like everywhere else in the Middle East. In Palestine, Christians are present in the various political parties, as well as in the resistance to the Israeli occupation. There have been prisoners and deaths among them. In Israel, because of the special political situation and the practical pressures on daily life, there is a certain perplexity concerning involvement in public life.

In Palestine, groups of Christians are being formed, as we said earlier; they feel they have the duty to respond as Christians to certain situations. These groups have certain common characteristics: first, they are ecumenical; second, they want to act as Christians within society; and finally, they remain open to and stay closely in touch with all of the Palestinian, Muslim and Christian reality, avoiding all denominational isolation.

In Jordan, relations with the State and with the various ministries, according to the different activities of the Church, are normal and even friendly. We have our schools, we build our churches, and we have our ecclesiastical tribunals. It must also be added, however, that our large gatherings are discretely under the surveillance of the Security Services. The Synod of the Catholic Churches in the Holy Land that took place before the year 2000 raised fears and provoked misunderstandings on the part of the Jordanian Security. Several of the faithful involved in the "activities of the Synod were interrogated. The Prince Regent at that time - Prince Hassan - intervened more than once to help the security apparatus better understand the synodal event. But the fears persisted.

The Jordanian Parliament includes a fixed number of Christian deputies for the regions comprising a significant Christian population. The government normally has one or two Christian ministers. The government also sees to it that there are Christians among the senators.

The same holds true in Palestine for the Parliament, the government, and the structures of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO).

In Israel at the present time, on 15 Arab deputies, only two are Christians. Contrary to the situation in Jordan and Palestine, this presence is not always guaranteed because it depends on membership in the various political parties and on the internal organization of the parties themselves. Relations between the Church and the State in Israel are also normal in terms of the existence of the Church and of its various activities. Tensions exist in the Occupied Palestinian Territories where the Church and the State of Israel have different and even opposing points-of-view concerning the conflict between Palestinians and Israelis. The Church speaks on behalf of the poor and the oppressed and of their liberation, and it condemns the Occupation, the Wall, the presently imposed state of siege, etc. On this subject, common declarations have been made and occasional actions taken in the name of the 13 heads of Churches between 1988 and today. This position regarding the conflict naturally provokes rather tense relations with the State.

6. Islamic-Christian relations

Concerning Islamic-Christian relations in Jordan and Palestine (and also in the Arab society in Israel), relations are somewhat similar to those that exist in the other Arab countries of the Middle East. In the Constitutions of the various states, mention is made both of the equality of all citizens and of Islam as the State religion. Relations between the Church and civil and religious authorities are good and respectful in both directions. Likewise, at the level of the people, there is collaboration in the various fields of human activity. Incidents can take place, and all sorts do happen, provoked by one cause or another, thereby creating occasional tensions. But the government tries to keep these incidents from degenerating and to find a solution as quickly as possible.

The difficult cases are those based on religious laws, e.g., cases of mixed marriages between two religions, and of minors when a Christian father changes his religion. Such changes are rarely made for religious reasons but are usually prompted by self-interest and the desire to free one's self from a marriage that has become difficult to endure. In such cases, minors must follow the religion of the father. This provokes tensions on both sides, Christian and Muslim. Until now, r.o real and equitable solution has been found. One way or the other, cases are treated separately. Sometimes, there are ways of getting around the inflexibility of religious law. At other times, this is impossible, and the family must suffer the ordeal. In cases of mixed marriage or of a change of religion, there are also times when it becomes necessary to leave the country and search for another society in order to get on with one's life. Finally, in certain Jordanian universities, some young Muslims try to proselytize and convert the Christian students. For their part, American sects also proselytize, but in the opposite direction.

In Bethlehem, since 1988, there is a center for dialogue between Muslims and Christians called Al-Liqa (Dialogue). On a regular basis, it organizes lectures and holds each year a three-day congress on current topics of dialogue. Also, in Palestine, the ongoing conflict and the succession of events often bring together the religious authorities of both Christians and Muslims.

A group of Muslim, Christian and Jewish religious leaders in the Holy Land began meeting in 2001 upon the initiative of the Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord George Carey. This foundation was well received by the political leaders. The group was invited by the Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to hold its first meeting in Alexandria, to which the sheikh of the Muslim University AI-Azhar in Cairo, Mohammad Tantawi, also participated. This group continues to exist and to hold regular meetings. It tries to reflect on the conflict itself and on its definition and causes, in the hope of arriving at a vision of justice and peace that can contribute to the desired peace.

In Jordan, the Al al-Bayt Foundation has held regular meetings with the Pontifical Council for Inter-Religious Dialogue in Rome. So has the University bearing the same name that was founded to encourage the study of comparative religions and to promote dialogue. After September 11, 2001, King Abdallah II gave special attention to the Christian presence in Jordan. He called a special meeting of the political and religious Christian leaders and shared two thoughts with them: first, his concern about the emigration of Christians, especially from Jerusalem, and secondly, about the responsibility of Jordanian Christians during this period in history when worldwide relations between Christians and Muslims are suffering from serious tensions. He would like Jordanian society, and especially the Christians of this country, to give the good example in these matters.

On this subject, we published in Jerusalem' a document (9) drawn up by a group of theologians from Jerusalem that addresses three issues: violence and terrorism, relations with Judaism, and Muslim-Christian relations. Concerning the latter, it is said:
"Two principles govern our relations between Muslims and Christian Arabs in the Holy Land. First, Christians and Muslims, we all belong to one people and share the same history, language, culture, and society. Second, as Christian Arabs, we are called to be witnesses to Jesus Christ in our Arab and Muslim society."

With respect to daily life, the document states: "In our daily life, even though relations between Christians and Muslims are generally good, we are fully aware that there are certain difficulties and challenges confronting us. These include mutual ignorance and prejudices, an authority vacuum that produces insecurity, and discrimination on the part of those who try to Islamize certain political movements. Such an effort threatens not only Christians but also the many Muslims who desire an open society. Whenever Islamization constitutes an infringement upon the freedom of Christians, we must insist on the need to respect our identity and our religious freedom. This complexity is sometimes exploited for political reasons ih order to divide society. However, through dialogue and other initiatives, Christians and Muslims are called to collaborate with one another in building a common society based on mutual respect and responsibilities."

"In this situation, we seek to help our Arab faithful, who constitute the majority of our flock, to integrate and live the complexity of their identity as Christians, as Arabs, and as citizens in Jordan, Palestine, and Israel. The fact that Christians are statistically a small community should not, in any way, condemn them to irrelevance or despair. We encourage all our faithful to take their rightful place in public life and to contribute in all areas to the building up of society."

7. Ecumenical relations

Relations among the various Churches are good: their heads meet frequently to deal with common problems, to reflect together, and to address common messages at Christmas, Easter, or other important occasions. For the Year 2000, a common Pastoral Letter, signed by the 13 heads of Churches, was addressed to our faithful and to the world. (1O) In 1993, a document on The Significance of Jerusalem for Christians was published, bearing all of our signatures. (11) Last year, in 2004, we spent a day together in prayer and meditation on the texts of the Gospel and of the Acts of the Apostles.

Moreover, the Churches of the Holy Land and of Jordan are members of the Middle East Council of Churches (MECC) which has an office in Amman that takes care of Palestinian Refugees, in addition to its ecumenical activities: the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity and meetings between ministers and priests. The Council used to have an office in Jerusalem; a new one is currently being planned. The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity is well carried out by all of the Churches, with the exception of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate which holds to the following principle: we are not united, therefore we all pray for unity; but as long as we are not united, each one prays alone in his own Church. That having been said, the meetings of the Heads of Churches take place at this same Patriarchate where we are all well-received.

In the various parishes, the ecumenical outlook depends on the personal views of the pastors. In general, except in rare cases, there is a reciprocal common acceptance, and meetings are held on various occasions that oblige everyone to rise above the spirit of separation and to achieve unity by practicing the commandment of fraternal love while waiting for unity to be achieved on the juridical and theological levels.

Regarding Jerusalem, a word must be said about the Status Quo, a legislation that determines the relations among the Churches in the Holy Places, .especially at the Basilicas of the Nativity in Bethlehem and of the Resurrection in Jerusalem. Literally, the expression Status Quo means that everything remains as it is. The Sultan of Constantinople imposed the Status Quo in 1852. One year later, the Crimean War broke out. It was won by a coalition composed of Turkey, Great Britain and France against Russia, and it ended with the International Treaty of Paris in 1856. The Status Quo was recognized by the Treaty of Berlin in 1878 after yet another war, that of the Balkans. One of the reasons for these two wars was precisely the disagreement that existed over the Holy Places between the Orthodox, supported by Russia, and the Catholics, supported by France. In the absence of a definitive settlement, these responsible States adopted the Status Quo: each party stays where it is and continues to do what it has been doing until now. This creates an ongoing state of alert on the part of everyone concerned, prompting them to carefully observe every detail of each ceremony, so as not to lose a right or to allow the other party to gain additional rights.

The three owners of these Holy Places are: the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate, the Armenian Orthodox Patriarchate, and the Latin Catholics represented by the Custody of the Holy Land, i.e., by the Franciscan Friars, mandated by the Holy See to "guard" the Holy Places. Three other communities have the right to use the premises but do not have ownership rights, viz., the Copts, the Syrians and the Ethiopians. No maintenance work or improvements may be made without the consent of all three owners. If they cannot come to an agreement, it is up to the civil authorities to take the necessary measures to carry out the needed work. In this area, there are occasional tensions among the communities and even scandals at times. For example, in the last two years, there has been disagreement between the Greek Patriarchate and the Armenian Patriarchate over the ceremony of the Holy Fire on Holy Saturday. This disagreement has not yet been resolved. Other difficulties are pending with the Custody and the Syrian Orthodox. The two Patriarchs and Father Custos, or their representatives, generally meet and try to iron out the problems. Sometimes, the quarrel itself becomes part of the Status Quo and the sign of a suspended right that has not yet been recognized.

8. Pastoral life

The pastoral life of the Catholic Churches is governed by The General Pastoral Plan, the fruit of the Synod held between 1993 and 2000 in which the six Catholic Churches participated. It was an attempt at renewal and at working together. Certain concrete measures pertaining to our common inter-ritual life were taken and have since become a tradition: an annual inter-ritual spiritual retreat at the beginning of July, an inter-ritual Presbyteral Council, and a Catholic Pastoral Committee. The latter is composed of 72 members (clergy, religious men, religious women, and laity) from all of the dioceses in the three countries, Jordan, Palestine, and Israel. Its purpose is to plan and coordinate pastoral activity.

The Pastoral Plan, fruit of the common reflection of the Churches, including the clergy, the religious, and the laity, is divided into 16 chapters, each dealing with a separate topic. These chapters are grouped under three main headings:

Given the political developments taking place in the three countries where our dioceses are located, pastoral activity pays special attention to the involvement of the laity in public life, both as Christians and as citizens, avoiding all religious ghettoizing, and remaining attuned to all of the human reality of our societies.

9. Conclusion

Christians in the Holy Land have common characteristics with Christians in all of the Arab countries of the Middle East: relations with the State and society, relations with Islam, and ecumenical relations. They also have characteristics of their own: the fact that they are part of the "Mother Church," the land where Christianity was born; and the fact that they are part of the Church of the Holy Places of our Redemption. But these living stones also have other distinctive characteristics: they are a Church living in the midst of the conflict between Palestinians and Israelis, having to endure and to share all of its sacrifices and human suffering. It is a Church that has organized a Synod of the Catholic Churches and that constantly aims for more coordination and unity. It is a Church that is unique in the Arab world and even in the entire world because it co-exists with Judaism as a religion and as a State and, in this context, bears the double responsibility of dialogue and of action in favor of justice and reconciliation.

With all of the Churches of the Middle East, we are looking toward a new future which we have the duty to prepare in terms of more freedom in our societies, more dialogue among our religions, more ecumenism among our Churches, and more fraternity and love while waiting for an end to the theological and juridical divisions.

A future comprising lay Christians who are aware of their duties within their societies, and who accept these societies with all of their difficulties, limitations, pressures and contradictions. Lay people who are aware that the future of the Church and of our societies also depends on us, regardless of our numbers. This is both a duty and a right.

The emigration of Christians, as well as that of all the other segments of society, remains only a part of the overall picture because there are Christians who are staying and who taking part in the reconstruction. The existence of the Middle East Council of Churches is an acquired experience promoting collaboration among all of the Churches. It provides a forum for sharing experiences and for reflecting together about the present situation, about the future of Christians, and about their role in the various societies of the Middle East. As stated in the Second Letter of the Catholic Patriarchs of the East on the Christian Presence, (12) our present and our future depend on our ability to listen to each other and to think and act together. It is true that the maturing imposed by the course of history is often stronger than our initiatives. But it is very dangerous to leave our future to the free evolution of the- history of our regions and our Churches. Instead, we must take our future into our own hands and contribute to its creation. Being a Christian is a vocation to create history with God, the master of history. If we follow this vocation, our Churches will remain capable of nourishing the hope of our faithful and of preparing a better future for them and for all our societies.

The Church in the Holy Land: commitment and expectations of Christians. The first challenge we must face is to understand and accept our vocation, that of being Christians and witnesses to Jesus in this land. With this awareness and this acceptance, we must face the conflict which is destroying human beings in their dignity, whether Palestinians or Israelis. These persons are more important in the eyes of God than all the shrines of stone that abound in our Holy Land. It is a difficult task that requires a deep faith and the human qualities needed in order to give Christians the courage to take their rightful place in the conflict, both as citizens and as Christians, to serve our society, and to help bring about the birth of new societies. The Church is at the service of humanity and of all human beings.

The second challenge facing Christians is the coordination of a common plan of action over and above the divisions and the different denominations. In order to achieve this, the fundamental challenge remains a true catechesis of both the great and the lowly so that everyone can feel at home in the Church and live accordingly. The Pastoral Plan for the Catholic Churches, in its sixteen chapters, traced the course of action that we, the Christians in the Holy Land, must try to follow and live out together in order to renew ourselves, to take action, and to give our societies what they expect of us.

+ Michel Sabbah, Patriarch, Beirut, May 18, 2005

+ + + + +

1. The Greek Orthodox Patriarchate covers three countries and has jurisdiction on Mount Sinai. Its Synod includes 18 bishops, most of whom reside in Jerusalem, and five in Nazareth, Akko, Gaza, Amman and Kerak in Jordan.(BACK)
The Latin Patriarchate covers these same three countries, plus Cyprus. The Patriarch has four auxiliary bishops and patriarchal vicars: one in Jerusalem, the second in Nazareth for Israel, the third in Amman for Jordan, and the fourth for the Hebrew-speaking community. In Cyprus, there is also a patriarchal vicar who is not a bishop. (Editor's note: This was the situation at the time when the lecture was given in May 2005. Since then, the auxiliary bishop for the Hebrew-speaking community died on June 23, 2005 [cf. section In Memoriam on pages (53-57), and a coadjutor bishop, with right of succession, to this Beatitude Patriarch Michel Sabbah was appointed by Pope Benedict XVI on September 8, 2005.)
The Catholic Melkite Church has a diocese in each of the three countries, a patriarchal vicar in Jerusalem, a bishop in Israel, and another in Jordan.
The Maronite Church has a bishop for Israel who is at the same time patriarchal vicar in Jerusalem and bishop for Jordan. The Syrian Catholics and the Armenian Catholics have a bishop who is the patriarchal vicar for the three countries.
The Armenian Orthodox Patriarchate covers Palestine and Israel. There is also a bishop residing in Amman for Jordan.
The three other Oriental Orthodox Churches (Syrian, Coptic, and Ethiopian) each have only one bishop who is responsible for the three countries. The same holds true for the two Protestant Churches, Anglican and Lutheran.

2. The General Pastoral Plan is the fruit of the Diocesan Synod of the Catholic Churches of the Holy Land that was held between 1993 and 2000. It was published in Arabic, French, Italian, and English by the Assembly of the Catholic Ordinaries of the Holy Land during the Jubilee Year 2000. (Return to text)

3. Born in Nablus, he first studied philosophy. After his conversion, he went on to defend the Christian faith in his writings. He was martyred in Rome around the year 165.(Return to text)

4. Bishop of Jerusalem from 348 to 387, he became famous for his catechesis to catechumens which he preached in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. (Return to text)

5. - Born in Damascus, he entered the Monastery of Mar Saba (near Bethlehem). He left many writings and died around the year 754. (Return to text)

6. -Ibid. (Return to text)

7. - The newspaper gives the following details taken from a report published by the Committee on Prisoners (Nadi AI-Asir): Since the year 2000, 40,000 Palestinians have been imprisoned, 8,000 of whom are still in prison today; 3,000 children have been arrested, 350 of whom are still imprisoned, plus 500 women, 120 of whom are still detained; 150 persons have been killed without trial, immediately upon their arrest.

8. - In the last two years, pilgrimages have begun to return, thanks to repeated and common appeals made by the heads of the Churches in Jerusalem and to the response to these appeals by certain Episcopal Conferences. During 2005, the number of pilgrims was almost back to normal.

9. - Reflections on the Presence of the Church in the Holy Land. December 3, 2003' (cf. Jerusalem, November-December 2003; also Pastoral Letters of H.E. Msgr. Michel Sabbah, Jerusalem, Beit Jala, 2005).

10. - Message of the Patriarchs and of the Heads of the Christian Communities in Jerusalem on the Occasion of the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, Bethlehem, December 4, 1999 (cf. Jerusalem, November-December 1999).

11. - Memorandum of their Beatitudes the Patriarchs and of the Heads of the Christian Communities in Jerusalem on The Significance of Jerusalem for Christians, Jerusalem, November 4, 1994 (cf. Jerusalem, November-December 1994).

12 The Christian Presence in the East, Witness and Mission, Easter 1992.