Father Issa Misleh, spokesman for the Orthodox Church in Jerusalem, announced today that upon the invitation of His Beatitude Theophilos III, Patriarch of Jerusalem, heads and representatives of the world Orthodox Churches from Russia, Georgia, Bulgaria, Serbia, Romania, Cyprus and Finland will hold a prayer for peace and a historic assembly to discuss Orthodox affairs, particularly with regard to the Holy Land and the ever increasing challenges faced by the Patriarchate of Jerusalem and its flock. Father Misleh pointed out that the historic meeting will be held on the 27 May at the site of the Baptism of Jesus Christ in Jordan, Bethany beyond the Jordan.
He added that the Patriarchate of Jerusalem places special importance on its efforts to achieve a just and comprehensive peace between Palestinians and Israelis that guarantees human rights, provides the atmosphere for social development and offers the opportunity for providing decent lives for the peoples of the region.
The spokesperson explained that the assembly of Heads and Representatives of World Orthodox Churches, as they represent the majority of Christians in our region, and their prayer for peace at Bethany beyond the Jordan, holds many significant meanings, among them support for the message and responsibilities carried out by the Patriarchate of Jerusalem.
Father Misleh stressed that of the Orthodox Church, being “The Mother of All Churches” and the birthplace of the Christian faith, holds a special responsibility in maintaining Christian presence in the Middle East. In addition to its role in contributing to the refinement of the Eastern Arab identity, where the Orthodox component continues to be an essential element in the composition of the Arab-Islamic cultural identity and the homogeneous social fabric of the Arab world.
He added that assembly of Heads and Representatives of World Orthodox Churches strengthens the role of the Patriarchate of Jerusalem and establishes various methods of cooperation aimed at maintaining the indigenous Christian presence in the Middle East. Noting that inter-Orthodox cooperation comes in the context of a vision invoked by historical facts, among them the Patriarchate of Jerusalem is the rightful heir to the historic agreement signed between the Caliph Omar Ibn al Khattab and the Patriarch of Jerusalem Sophronius.
Further to being the first church and a witness to the Christian faith in the Holy City, and an integral party to the process in which Jerusalemites chose Sharif Hussein bin Ali, Sharif of Mecca and King of the Arabs as a Guardian to holy places in Jerusalem in 1924. The spokesman for the Orthodox Church in Jerusalem said "The historical and religious legitimacy that the Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem celebrates, reinforces the importance of its role as a preserver to Jordan’s Hashemite custody of the churches and Christian Holy Sites in Jerusalem, and the subsequent Jordanian-Palestinian agreement concerning the Guardianship of Jordan on the Islamic and Christian sanctities in Jerusalem that was signed between His Majesty King Abdullah II ibn al Hussein and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on the 31 of March 2013”.
Regarding the venue of the historic assembly of Heads and Representatives of World Orthodox Churches, Father Misleh explained that having the Kingdom of Jordan host this historic assembly at the site of the Baptism of Jesus Christ, Bethany beyond the Jordan, symbolizes World Orthodox Churches’ support for the Kingdom’s political position, diplomatic efforts and initiatives. Furthermore, it emphasizes the continuous cooperation between these historic religious institutions, including the Patriarchate of Jerusalem on the one hand, and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan on the other, to protect the sanctuaries and supreme national interests of Jordan, as it reflects the keenness of the Hashemite Leadership and its role in preserving the legacy of the Arab Orthodox Christian presence in the Holy Land.
In the same context, Father Musleh considered this assembly at the Holy River as an eloquent testimony to the support of World Orthodox Churches towards efforts carried out by the Patriarchate of Jerusalem and the Kingdom of Jordan to shed the light on the holiness of the Baptism Site, and to strengthen the Kingdom’s religious position as a destination for Christian pilgrimage, and therefore encourage tourism.
Father Misleh also added this historic meeting reflects encouragement to the Kingdom’s general strategy to achieve harmony and peace, and its continuous calls for resolving crises through dialogue. In addition to supporting His Majesty’s personal efforts in backing the just cause of the Palestinian people.