Bethlehem /PNN / Monjed Jadou
For the first time in more than 60 years, Palestine received the Patriarch of Antioch and All the East for the Syriac Orthodox Church, His Holiness Ignatius Aphrem II, on Sunday at the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem.
The reception was led by Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh, Minister of Tourism and Antiquities Rola Maayaa, Governor of Bethlehem Kamil Hmeid, Mayor of Bethlehem Hanna Hanania, representatives of various churches, national figures, and hundreds of citizens, as the Patriarch's procession was accompanied by twelve Palestinian scout groups.
The Patriarch's procession departed from the city of Jerusalem, passing through the Catholic Action Roundabout, Star Street, Ras Al-Amoud, and arriving at Manger Square to be officially received by Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh, Governor of Bethlehem Kamil Hmeid, Minister of Tourism and Antiquities Rola Maayaa, Mayor of Bethlehem Hanna Hanania, security leaders, and a gathering of religious figures and Syriac Church members.
After the handshake, the procession walked on foot to the Church of the Nativity, where the Patriarch performed a prayer in the Grotto, as well as a prayer at the circumcision chapel in the Syriac Church at the Church of the Nativity.
Afterwards, he went out of the Church of the Nativity towards the Church of the Virgin Mary for the Syriac Orthodox, and unveiled the curtain over the stone of the manger "Star of Bethlehem," and installed Antimos Jack as a deputy patriarch and bishop of the Syriac Orthodox in Jerusalem, Jordan, and the Holy Land.
He also received a welcome at the Mar Ephrem Syriac Orthodox Association, and he will have an official reception on the stage of the Conference Palace in Bethlehem, starting at 8:00 p.m.
Dr. Muhammad Shtayyeh, the Palestinian Prime Minister said, "We are filled with happiness and joy today in the presence of the Patriarch, and today we have heard good news of Syria's return to the Western scene, and the Patriarch's presence is a crowning achievement for this national celebration."
He added, "Palestine Today celebrates in the name of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas Abu Mazen, and this is the first visit since 1966, and therefore for us it is an important and big event, and we are very happy to have him in Bethlehem and in this holy place, the Church of the Nativity, which is a symbol for all Christians in the world."
Shtayyeh emphasized that our Syriac Christian people have a primary role in the history of Christians in the Levant, and therefore today is a national scene par excellence where we unite in churches.
As for the Patriarch, he said, "Feelings of joy and happiness overwhelm me as we are today in a holy place where it is not just the stones, but the Palestinian people. Today, the dream has come true for us to be in the birthplace of Christ."
He pointed out that they are with the Palestinian people who are going through difficult circumstances, and they always pray for them for liberation and the establishment of their state within the recognized borders, so they can live in freedom, dignity, security, and peace.
Hamid: We welcome the great visitor and call on religious leaders to break the siege on Bethlehem.
The governor of Bethlehem, Major General Kamel Hamid, said that the visit of His Beatitude the Syriac Patriarch to Palestine and Bethlehem is very important. He pointed out that the great guest is a companion to President Mahmoud Abbas, and therefore the visit is truly historic, as it is the first since the occupation, where this visit did not take place for known reasons, most notably the occupation and its practices. Therefore, he is visiting and inspecting the Syriac Church in Jerusalem and in various governorates, and he also has a visit to Jericho and Ramallah.
Hamid emphasized that this visit comes in support of the Palestinian people and strengthens their steadfastness on this land in the face of all the occupation measures, which have become clear to everyone through the obstacles placed in front of all religious occasions and religious leaders. What happened during Easter and before it in Eid al-Fitr and Ramadan confirms that these measures have become exposed. This visit also comes to expose Israeli arrogance.
Hamid explained that Bethlehem welcomes the guest of the president and His Beatitude the Patriarch and thanks him for this visit. We call on all religious leaders and all those who stand in solidarity with the Palestinian people who support the rights of the Palestinian people to establish their state and its capital, Jerusalem, to be guests of the Palestinian leadership.
The mayor of Bethlehem say : The is Important on Various Levels
Hanna Hananiaha, the mayor of Bethlehem, stated that this visit is a historic and important one for all Palestinians.
He emphasized that the people of Bethlehem, especially, and the Palestinian people, in general, consider this visit to be historic and important because it comes after more than sixty years since the last visit of a Patriarch of the Syriac Orthodox Church to Palestine.
Hannaniah confirmed that the incoming Patriarch is coming with deep national sentiment, having issued a national stance of not going to any site where Israelis are present or shaking hands with them. He stressed that he came to the Holy Land, under the administration of the Palestinian government and authority. This visit sends us many messages, and the Patriarch is a supporter of the Palestinian cause, and we welcome him to his city, the city of Bethlehem.
This historic visit to Palestine is in response to the message sent by President Mahmoud Abbas to His Holiness the Patriarch, as well as to visit the flock in Palestine and on the occasion of the installation of the Deputy Patriarch in Jerusalem and Jordan and the Holy Land, His Eminence Bishop Mor Anthimos Jack Yacoub.
It is worth mentioning that this historic visit is the first in about 58 years and will last for six days, during which His Eminence Bishop Anthimos Jack Yacoub will be installed as the Deputy Patriarch and Metropolitan of the Syriac Orthodox Church in Jerusalem, Jordan, and the Holy Land.