The Church of Jerusalem
Today we were delighted to welcome the Latin Patriarch Emeritus of Jerusalem, Fouad Twal. His Beatitude is visiting Oxford to take part in a debate at the Oxford Union on the interplay between religious freedom and civil liberties.
As part of his visit, his Beatitude celebrated a votive Mass for persecuted Christians in our Church.
In his sermon, the Patriarch explained that the Church of Jerusalem is and always has been the Church of Calvary. As the whole Church was founded when Christ's side was pierced on Calvary, so the Church of Jerusalem came into being. Calvary is physically within the territory of the Church of Jerusalem, and the suffering experienced by Christ on Calvary has been a characteristic of that church's members to the present day.
There are currently 10,000 Christians living in Jerusalem, who are very much a minority. The Patriarchate is responsible for a diocese spanning four states: Israel, Palestine, Jordan and Cyprus. Across those areas, the Church runs schools that serve 75,000 students, and 11 hospitals in Jerusalem alone. Despite being very much a minority in Jerusalem, Christians are able to provide a strong witness of their love of neighbour, and in some areas the Church flourishes. His Beatitude gave the example of the Church in Jordan, where numbers of young Christians are so strong that he advised arriving an hour early for Mass in order to get into the church.
As a result of persecutions, many Christians are leaving the Holy Land. The Patriarch asked our continued prayers for the Church in these parts, but added that a very practical way of supporting persecuted Christians is to visit Jerusalem as pilgrims and tell others what we have seen. He ended by expressing his trust in Our Lord's promise, ‘I am with you always’ (Mt 28:20).