President Shimon Peres hosted Christian Leaders at a traditional ceremony in the President’s Residence today. Representatives of the Greek, Latin, Armenian, and other communities were in attendance.
(Communicated by the President’s Spokesperson)
President Peres hosted a traditional ceremony at the President’s Residence today to welcome the Christian leadership in Israel. The President offered his blessings to hundreds of Christian leaders, wishing them a “Happy New Year and a Merry Christmas.” The President also stressed Israel’s fundamental commitment to freedom of religion, in Jerusalem and the holy sites. Christian leaders in attendance included Greek Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos III, Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem Fuad Twal, representative of the Armenian Patriarch Archbishop Aris Shirvanian, Custos of the Holy Land, Friar Pier Battista, and Greek-Catholic Melkite Archbishop Elias Shakur.
The President addressed the Christian leaders: “It is Israel’s responsibility to make sure every believer can pray to his or her Lord without interruption. Israel is deeply committed to protecting the holy sites for every religion. We will not tolerate any offense toward any church, mosque, or synagogue. “
The President commented on the political situation in the Middle East stating that “I pray that we may form peace on the basis of two states for two people, living side by side, as good neighbors, in full respect and trust.” The President added that Israel is willing to begin peace negotiations with all its neighbors including Syria and Lebanon.
The President appealed to the Christian leaders stating that “I know that there are some differences between us, but there are also many similarities. By and large I believe that the religious and spiritual leaders that have assembled here today constitute a camp of peace… While we may practice different religions, we are looking at the same sky, and praying to the Lord. Use your good voices and strong spirits to overcome the great divisions.”
Lastly, the President stressed the need to fight discrimination: “I think the time has come to cross out any expression of discrimination. I wish that every young girl and young boy, Jewish or Arab, will have the opportunity to get the highest education without discrimination. I wish to protect every mosque, church, and synagogues as indepdenet, as a place of good faith, and not a place of extremism. I think we are taking measures to achieve it.”
Greek Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos III thanked the President for hosting the event and for his remarks: “events and gathering such as this one are of great importance for promoting values that are greatly needed in our present day.” Patriarch Theophilos III firmly stated, “rest assured that both the Christian institutions and leadership, in the Holy land, are willing to employ their blessings and resources in furthering peace in the region because we believe that this constitutes one of the fundamental commandments of our faith which solidifies our existence and determines our mission.” He added that “we are appreciative of the Authorities’ efforts in facilitating the access for pilgrims and worshipers and we commend them to continue and push further this holy important provision.”