Christian Leaders on Status
"City of Two Peoples and Three Religions"
JERUSALEM, OCT. 21, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Here is the statement published
by the principal Christian patriarchs and leaders of the Holy Land on
the status of Jerusalem.
The statement was published Sept. 29, following the end of the
Israeli-Lebanon war this summer, and highlights the need for a more
concerted effort to build a lasting peace in the Middle East, beginning
* * *
Once more, we have experienced another period of deadly violence in the
war in South Lebanon. We still face more death and demolition in Gaza,
and more insecurity in the Israeli society. Therefore, we say it is
high time to start a serious effort from all parts for a total
definitive and just peace. Moreover, we believe that peace must begin
in this Holy City of Jerusalem.
Therefore, we present the following statement hoping it will bring a
modest contribution to the birth of peace in our Land.
In 1994, we, the patriarchs and heads of the local Christian Churches
in Jerusalem, published a memorandum entitled "The Meaning of Jerusalem
for Christians" that insisted on the Christian character of Jerusalem,
and on the importance of the Christian presence in her.
It also discussed the special political status that must be accorded to
the city because of her sacred character. Since that time, we have
witnessed the increasing tendency of the political authorities to
unilaterally decide the fate of the city and define her status. The
access of our faithful and our personnel to Jerusalem is ever-more
With the construction of the wall many of our faithful are excluded
from the precincts of the holy city, and according to plans published
in the local press, many more will also be excluded in the future.
Surrounded by walls, Jerusalem is no longer at the cente and is no
longer the heart of life as she should be.
We consider it part of our duty to draw the attention of the local
authorities, as well as the international community and the world
Churches, to this very grave situation and call for a concerted effort
to search for a common vision on the status of this holy city based on
international resolutions and having regard to the rights of two
peoples in her and the three faith communities.
In this city, in which God chose to speak to humanity and to reconcile
peoples with himself and among themselves, we raise our voices to say
that the paths, followed up till now, have not brought about the
pacification of the city and have not reassured normal life for her
inhabitants. Therefore they must be changed. The political leaders must
search for a new vision as well as for new means.
In God's own design, two peoples and three religions have been living
together in this city. Our vision is that they should continue to live
together in harmony, respect, mutual acceptance and cooperation.
1. Jerusalem, holy city and city of daily life for two peoples and
Jerusalem, heritage of humanity and holy city, is also the city of
daily life for her inhabitants, both Palestinians and Israelis, Jews,
Christians and Muslim, and for all who are linked to them by family
ties as well as for those for whom Jerusalem is the location of their
prayer, of their schools, hospitals and work places.
Not only historical memories and sacred places of pilgrimage, but also
living communities of believers, Jews, Christians and Muslims, make the
city of Jerusalem beloved and unique for each one of the three
monotheistic faiths. Holy places and living human communities are
In addition, both the sacred character of the holy city and the needs
of her inhabitants have attracted and continue to attract numerous
religious institutions. These have been recognized by the successive
authorities throughout the centuries and have acquired certain rights
that allow them to fulfill their obligations toward the holy city and
Consequently, the fundamental rights pertaining to both individuals and
institutions must be respected. For individuals, these are basic rights
that permit them to exercise their religious, political and social
duties and to meet their religious, educational, cultural and medical
For communities, this is the right to possess, to freely administer the
works necessary for their ministry and their overall human development
-- churches, monasteries, schools, hospitals, social institutions,
theological and biblical institutes, accommodation for pilgrims, etc.
It also includes the right to bring in the personnel and avail of the
means needed for the proper functioning of the institutions.
2. Requirements for a just and durable solution for the Jerusalem
The future of the city must be decided by common agreement, through
collaboration and consultation and not imposed by power and force.
Unilateral decisions or imposed solutions will continue to be very
detrimental to peace and security.
Different solutions are possible. The city of Jerusalem might remain
united but sovereignty in this case must be shared, exercised according
to a principle of equality by both Israelis and Palestinians. However,
the city might also be divided if this be the desire of the two peoples
who live here, with two distinct sovereignties, the aim of which would
be to reach a true unity of hearts in the two parts of the city.
The wall, which tears apart the city at more than one point and which
excludes a great number of her inhabitants must give way to an
education that will strengthen mutual trust and acceptance.
Face to face with the inability of the parties involved to find a just
and durable solution up until the present time, the assistance of the
international community is a necessity. In the future too, this aid
needs to continue in the form of guarantees that will ensure the
stability of the agreements reached by the two sides.
We recommend to create as soon as possible, an ad hoc committee to
reflect on the future of the city. In this committee the local Churches
of Jerusalem must be a part.
3. Special status -- open city
Jerusalem, holy city, heritage of humanity, city of two peoples and
three religions, has a unique character that distinguishes her from all
the other cities of the world; a character which surpasses any local
"Jerusalem is too precious to be dependent solely on municipal or
national political authorities" (cf. Memorandum, 1994).
Jerusalem's two peoples are the guardians of her sanctity and carry a
double responsibility: to organize their lives in the city and to
welcome all the "pilgrims" who come from around the world. The needed
international collaboration is not meant to replace the role and the
sovereignty of her two peoples. It is rather needed in order to help
both peoples to reach the definition and the stability of the special
status of the city.
That is why, concretely, and from the political, economic and social
point of view, her two peoples must bestow on Jerusalem a special
status that corresponds to her double character, holy and universal,
and ordinary and local, where daily life unfolds.
Once this status has been found and defined, the international
community is required to confirm it with international guaranties that
will assure continuing peace and respect for all.
The components of this special status must include the following
"The human right of freedom of worship and of conscience for all, both
as individuals and as religious communities" (cf. Memorandum, 1994).
Equality of all her inhabitants before the law, in coordination with
the international resolutions.
Free access to Jerusalem for all, citizens, residents or pilgrims, at
all times, whether in peace or in war. Therefore Jerusalem should be an
The "rights of property ownership, custody and worship which the
different Churches have acquired throughout history should continue to
be retained by the same communities. These rights which are already
protected in the Status Quo of the Holy Places according to historical
"firmans" and other documents, should continue to be recognized and
respected" (cf. Memorandum, 1994).
The various Christian holy places in the city, wherever they are, must
remain united in geography, whatever the solution envisaged.
For Jews, Christians and Muslims, Jerusalem is a high place of
revelation and of God's encounter with humanity. That is why we cannot
remain indifferent to her fate nor remain silent in the face of her
"For Jerusalem's sake I will not rest until her vindication shines out
like the dawn and her salvation like a burning torch" (Isaiah 62:1).
We are launching this solemn appeal to all the religious leaders in the
Holy Land to collaborate together in order to reach a common vision of
the city that might unite the hearts of all believers. We call on our
political authorities to seek out the common points of agreement and,
in cooperation with the religious authorities, to find a solution which
corresponds to the city's sacred character.
We hope that our appeal might be heard and that the political leaders,
respecting the nature of this holy city, might show themselves capable
of reaching a final and definitive agreement that might make of
Jerusalem a true sign of the presence of God and of his peace among all.
Patriarch Theophilos III: Greek Orthodox Patriarchate
Patriarch Michel Sabbah: Latin Patriarchate.
Patriarch Torkom II: Armenian Apostolic Orthodox Patriarchate.
Father Pier Battista Pizziballa, Custos of the Holy Land
Anba Abraham: Coptic Orthodox Patriarchate.
Swerios Malki Mourad: Syrian Orthodox Patriarchate.
Abune Grima: Ethiopian Orthodox Patriarchate
Paul Nabil Sayyah: Maronite Patriarchal Exarchate.
Bishop Riah Abu Al-Assal: Episcopal Church of Jerusalem & the
Bishop Mounib Younan: Lutheran Evangelical Church
Pierre Malki: Exarch for the Syrian Catholics -- Jerusalem
George Bakar: Greek Catholic Patriarchal Exarchate
Father Rafael Minassian: Armenian Catholic Patriarchal Exarcate
Jerusalem, Sept. 29, 2006