President Reuven Rivlin, together with Minister of the Interior, Arie Deri, on Wednesday hosted the traditional annual reception at the President’s Residence, for leaders of Israel’s Christian community to mark the civil New Year.
Also speaking at the event was His Beatitude Theophilos III. In addition, the event was attended by heads of various churches in Israel, senior members of the community, and representatives of the Israeli government.
“A meeting with the heads of the Christian communities is always important to me, but when we face troubled times it becomes even more important,” began President Rivlin. “In the past years, our region has known so much bloodshed, so much pain, so much suffering. During this dark period, no community has been persecuted more than the Christians, in all countries around us. I pray together with all of you for their wellbeing. In Israel we understand what it means to be attacked, to be persecuted just because of our faith and we are heartbroken to see the suffering.”
The President stressed, “We are meeting today in Jerusalem, our beloved and holy city. Like you, I see my role, and the role of the State of Israel, as guardians of this city. As guardians our sovereignty over Jerusalem will never compromise the freedom of worship and religion for all believers. And today I repeat in the clearest way – the State of Israel is deeply committed to ensure the religious rights of worship and activity, of all communities of faith in Jerusalem, and throughout Israel. Today, I personally restate this commitment to the Christian churches under your leadership.”
The President concluded by expressing his hope that the new year will bring peace and quiet, security, and prosperity to Israel and all the region.
Minister of the Interior Arie Deri said, “At the end of this passing year, we received a present from US President Trump, recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Jerusalem will continue to be a city of peace for all those of faith, in which all can pray in freedom and equality.”
Speaking on behalf of the Christian communities, Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos III noted that the eyes of the world were focused on Jerusalem and spoke of the importance of the city as “a symbol of peace”. He went on to thank the President for his commitment to the well-being of the different communities of the city.
“We wish to express our gratitude for the positive action that you have taken to help promote the true integrity of this Holy City, and the well-being of all our peoples. We are also aware of your support for both pilgrims and the local faithful to be able to venerate the shrines and to worship freely.” He added, “We take this opportunity to recommit ourselves to working to ensure that this unique character of Jerusalem is maintained.”
He stressed, “Our holy city of Jerusalem is passing the most testing of times. Developments are placing huge pressures on our respective communities making them experience unease, anxiety, and disquietude. Mr. President, we know how you appreciate the Status Quo with its internationally recognized set of rights, rules, and customs, enables all the religious communities and the civil authorities to out our respective roles in harmony, and that it must remain in full effect.”