Rivlin stressed Israel’s commitment to the well-being of Christians in the Jewish state, which hosts the only thriving Christian community in the Middle East.
President Reuven Rivlin on Wednesday visited the Latin Patriarchate in Jerusalem’s Old City in honor of Easter, where he was welcomed by Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa, Apostolic Administrator of the Latin Patriarchate, and Greek Orthodox Patriarch Theophilos III, along with other senior Christian community leaders.
Commenting on two Islamic suicide bombers who attacked churches in the Nile Delta city of Tanta and the coastal city of Alexandria on Palm Sunday, killing 45 people and wounding scores, Rivlin expressed his sadness “at the news of the innocent blood spilled; the men, women, and children, whose lives were destroyed in the brutal terror attacks against the Egyptian Christian community.”
“While we celebrate these new beginnings and festivals of freedom,” he said, referring to Passover and Easter, “we are forced to face the return of a very old evil.”
A Stain on All Humanity
“I say to you here, our Christian brothers of Jerusalem, our thoughts are with you at this difficult time,” Rivlin stated. “We have all seen the pictures from Syria; I visited some of the injured being treated in Israeli hospitals. What has happened there to the Christian community – and to the whole country – is a stain on all humanity.”
He reassured the Christian leaders that “the Jewish people know better than any what it means to pray in fear, and suffer from terrorism, and I want to say to you that Israel will stand firm to protect your freedom of worship, your security, and the security of your holy sites. As I told the Pope when I had the honor to meet him in the Vatican: Israel remains committed to these freedoms as a basic foundation as a Jewish-democratic state.”
He added that “this is as true today as it was nearly 70 years ago, when David Ben Gurion declared our independence. And it is as true today as it was 50 years ago, when Israel was able to reunite the city of Jerusalem, and Jews returned back to the Old City, the holy city of Jerusalem.”
“From inside these ancient walls, we can celebrate our faiths together, we can grow our communities together, and – in the footsteps of the past – we can build a shared future, together,” he concluded.
Israel is the ‘Only Place Where People Can Take Refuge’
Apostolic Administrator of the Latin Patriarchate Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa thanked Israel for its “sensibility towards the Christian presence in the Holy City, and in Israel in general.”
“We appreciate your solidarity and clear words towards Christians,” he told Rivlin.
He noted the difficulty in celebrating against the background of turmoil and violence in the region, adding, “This is our faith, and there is no faith without hope.”
Greek Orthodox Patriarch Theophilos III spoke of his appreciation for the President’s visit, noting that it “comes at a time when our region is experiencing despicable acts of violence against the human family. We appreciate your compassion and deep respect for human life, and your sensitivity to human experience.”
“In our world of confusion and peril, Jerusalem and the Holy Land are the only place where people can take refuge. This has been clear in theses holy days when we have welcomed thousands of pilgrims from East and West,” he said.
By: Max Gelber, United with Israel