Jordan's king urges unity to protect Jerusalem holy sites

His Majesty King Abdullah on Tuesday stressed Jordan’s determination to protect the Christian presence in the region and Palestinian lands, especially in Jerusalem.The King made the remarks as he received leaders and representatives of Orthodox churches from several world countries at Al Husseiniya Palace in Amman.

HRH Prince Ghazi, the King’s Personal Envoy and Religious and Cultural Affairs Adviser, deputised for His Majesty at a prayer for peace held by the church leaders at the Baptism Site in the Jordan Valley later in the evening. 

The Jordan Valley meeting, in which the religious leaders also discussed the affairs of the Orthodox Church, attracted the participation of the heads and representatives of the world Orthodox churches from Russia, Georgia, Bulgaria, Serbia, Romania, Cyprus and Finland.

On behalf of the Serbian Orthodox Church His Grace Bishop Hrizostom of Zvornik-Tuzla and archpriest Gajo Gajic.

In Amman, King Abdullah welcomed Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem, all Palestine and Jordan Theophilus III and his guests, saying that their meeting at the Baptism Site has a “great historical significance”, noting that the past few days, which saw Pope Francis visit Jordan, “carried messages of coexistence and tolerance”. 

“This is what His Majesty the late King Hussein sought and it is what I personally, and we, collectively, seek: to unite as brothers for the defence of Jerusalem and its holy sites”.

The King said he believed that the challenges facing Jerusalem are of concern to all churches.

“My duty is to enhance your presence not only in the Middle East, but in the West Bank and Jerusalem, in particular,” the King told the Christian leaders.

“As a custodian of the holy sites in Jerusalem and as a brother of yours, the Orthodox churches have my full support. I will do my utmost to stand by you. The brothers who know me well know how committed I am to this cause. With this spirit, I welcome you all”.

Highlighting Jordan’s interfaith harmony model, the Monarch urged the Orthodox churches and their leaders to play their “significant role in promoting the values shared by the three monotheistic religions and a message of harmony, love and peace in the world community”.

In his remarks at the meeting, Patriarch Theophilus III thanked King Abdullah on behalf of church heads, describing their pilgrimage to Jordan as part of the Holy Land and the prayer for peace at the Baptism Site , a “significant historical moment”. 

He said the ties between his church and Jordan are an extension to the deep ties that started with the historic agreement signed between Caliph Omar Ibn Al Khattab and Patriarch of Jerusalem Sophronius in 637AD. 

Speaking to the Jordan News Agency, Petra, the heads of churches echoed similar remarks, voicing appreciation for the role played by Jordan in defending the sanctities of Jerusalem and the Christian identity in the region.  

Prayer for peace

At Bethany beyond Jordan, the place where Christ was baptised by John the Baptist, the church leaders held a Holy Mass to pray for peace for the Holy Land and the region.

The Jerusalem patriarch delivered an address to the gathering, reiterating the significance of Jordan’s role as a “hub of peace” and a model to follow for inter-religious co-existence and tolerance. 

He noted that the event was unprecedented, urging Christians around the world to visit the Baptism Site and other biblical locations in the Kingdom, vowing that his church would do its best to make pilgrims’ experience “worthwhile and memorable”.   

Along with Prince Ghazi, the mass was also attended by an array of senior officials, lawmakers and key figures.