President Reuven Rivlin met with heads of the Christian community ahead of Ascension Day on June 3rd, 2019.
(photo credit: Mark Neiman/GPO)
"The State of Israel, as guardian of this city, is deeply committed to the religious rights of worship and activity of all communities of faith in Jerusalem and Israel," President Reuven Rivlin said in an Ascension Day event at the Franciscan Church in Jerusalem on Monday.
"Christians, Muslims and Jews will always be free to worship here," Rivlin added at the event marking the Ascension Day holiday and 800 years of the Franciscan Order in the Holy Land.
Ascension Day, also known as the Feast of the Ascension of Jesus Christ, commerates Jesus's ascension to heaven, according to the Catholic News Agency.
"Israeli sovereignty will never compromise religious freedom," added Rivlin. "These are difficult and painful times for Christians in the Middle East. I am proud that Israel is the only country in our region where the Christian community is not shrinking, but in fact is growing."
Rivlin also congratulated the heads of the churches for reaching an agreement on the restoration and preservation of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, saying "it gives me great joy that you have agreed on the next stage to restore and protect the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, making sure that this most holy place for Christianity will be secured for future generations."
The agreement was signed between the Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic and Armenian Apostolic churches, which have been the building’s primary custodians since the Ottoman era.
The multi-million dollar project will be funded by the various Christian groups and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.
"Unfortunately, even recently, we have seen violence exploding in an inhuman and brutal way against faithful who were praying," said the Custos of the Holy Land, Father Francesco Patton.
"This violence has struck the Jewish community in the United States, the Muslim community in New Zealand, as well as the Christian community in Sri Lanka. As religious leaders, we refuse condemn and deplore all kinds of exploitation of religion, and especially the religious justification of acts of violence."
"When Pope John Paul II came to Jerusalem in March 2000, he reminded us that the role of religious leaders is, above all, that of ‘promoting peace and reciprocal understanding,’" added the Custos.
The Custos added that "we are, however, afraid that in this season in which the great religious leaders are condemning the exploitation of religion and acts of violence committed in the name of religion, some forms of religion are being undertaken by certain political leaders who are not far sighted; they are able to support all that permits them to obtain an immediate political consensus but they are short-sighted in their ability to build a strategy of peace for the common good of all citizens, in such a way that they become truly equal in being subjects of rights and duties, independently of their religious faith."
Jerusalem Post Staff contributed to this report.
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