Easter Day in Jerusalem brings new life as Presiding Bishop concludes Holy Land visit
In Galilee, Jefferts Schori walks in the footsteps of Jesus.
On Easter Day at St. George’s Cathedral in Jerusalem, Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, local Christians and pilgrims of many nationalities shared in the joyful Eucharistic celebration of Jesus’ resurrection following the Paschal mystery of his suffering and death.
Anglican Bishop in Jerusalem Suheil Dawani, who had invited the Presiding Bishop to spend Holy Week in his diocese, preached in Arabic and English about the need “to live our lives more fully and minister more faithfully.”
Dawani said that Easter reveals a world in which God has the last word “in rolling away all that stands before us” and offers “a new vista of hope for justice, equity and peace.”
The congregation included United States Members of Congress, Episcopal missionaries and a delegation from the Christian Association of Nigeria, including His Royal Majesty Ogidiga Ifite Ogwari of Anambra State.
The Presiding Bishop gave thanks for the ministry of the local Church and “its wonderful leadership,” the hospitality she and her delegation had received, and the friendships formed throughout her March 16-24 pastoral visit. “We take you home with us in our hearts and we will never be the same,” she said, emphasizing the need to build a kingdom of God -- of peace -- around the world.
Bishop Christopher Epting, ecumenical and interfaith officer; Maureen Shea, director of government relations; and Richard Schori, husband of the Presiding Bishop, have accompanied Jefferts Schori throughout the week.
On Holy Saturday, the delegation traveled throughout Galilee with Palestinian tour guide Iyad Qumri, walking in Jesus’ footsteps and recalling his prophetic and healing ministry throughout Palestine.
In Raineh, they were hosted for breakfast by the Rev. Samuel Barhoum, rector of Holy Family Episcopal Church, and his wife, Susan, general manager of Alpha Omega Consultations, an NGO and business research organization that specializes in development and public relations.
Barhoum and Jefferts Schori had been classmates together at the Church Divinity School of the Pacific in Berkeley, California.
A meeting with Mohammad Zeidan, general director of the Arab Association of Human Rights, provided an introduction of his work that focuses on education and outreach, especially in dealing with issues of discrimination and violations of human rights.
In Nazareth, the Presiding Bishop visited excavated Jewish homes complete with silos and cisterns that date back to the first century.
At the Cana Catholic Wedding Church, where Jesus is believed to have performed his first miracle of turning water into wine, further excavations reveal fourth-century churches. Franciscan Friar Francois enthusiastically acted out John’s account of the Gospel story in Arabic as the Rev. Canon Samir Habiby, special assistant to the Anglican Bishop in Jerusalem, provided simultaneous English translation.
Friar Francois and the Presiding Bishop found a common language and communicated in French.
The Presiding Bishop’s delegation had lunch at the Presbyterian-run Scots Hotel in the Jewish city of Tiberius, overlooking the Sea of Galilee which lies 600 feet below sea level.
Following the two-hour journey back to Jerusalem through the West Bank, Dr. Bernard Sabella of the Palestinian Legislative Council met with the Presiding Bishop and raised his concerns about the number of young Christians, Jews and Muslims who are leaving the country. The current situation, he said, is being governed by Israeli politicians, but he condemned the actions of Hamas, the Palestinian Islamist militant organization responsible for firing rockets from Gaza into southern Israel.
“Pragmatic and practical people feel like Israel and the United States are strengthening Hamas’ cause by the current siege of Gaza,” he said. “Israel needs to lift the barriers.”
Israeli officials have said the blockade, enforced since January 17, has been necessary to put pressure on militant Palestinians to stop rocket launches into Israel. But regular power cuts, food and water shortages, lack of fuel, and counter-attacks from the Israelis are placing immense pressure on the local population.
The Presiding Bishop visited Gaza on March 19 to experience first-hand the humanitarian crisis that is impacting 1.5 million Palestinians in the region. [An earlier ENS story about the Presiding Bishop’s visit to Gaza is available here (http://www.episcopalchurch.org/79901_95876_ENG_HTM.htm).
Sabella upheld the importance of the historic Christian presence in the Holy Land. “Palestinian Christians need to become a really articulate part of society,” he said, underscoring the work of the diocesan institutions that serve the community through providing essential education and healthcare.
“The schools we have seen are a clear signal of [the diocese] trying to build a peace mindedness and a way of living together from a very early age,” the Presiding Bishop said.
The day ended with the Easter Vigil and lighting of the new fire, as Christians worldwide looked toward Jesus’ joyful resurrection on Easter Day.
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