Heads of Churches in Jerusalem are joined by the clergy and people of the diocese, and also by a host of international friends to welcome new bishop
Historic St George’s Anglican Cathedral was filled to overflowing on Low Sunday, 15 April as the 14th Anglican bishop, the Rt Revd Suheil Dawani, was installed and welcomed as bishop of this important diocese in the life of the Anglican Communion.
Local Jerusalem Orthodox, Lutheran, Armenian, Coptic, Protestant and Roman Catholic prelates, pastors and members of religious orders, processed into the cathedral accompanied by a Palestinian Youth Marching Band, amidst clouds of incense and smiling faces. Clergy of the diocese, as well as lay leaders, processed with Anglican and Ecumenical guests from around the world. The Bishop of Exeter, the Rt Revd Michael Langrish represented the Archbishop of Canterbury, and the Rt Revd Mark Sisk, Bishop of New York, representing Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori. The Rt Revd Gayle Harris, Diocese of Massachusetts, was also present as both the diocese and the Cowley Fathers have close ties with the Anglican church here.
Muslim and Jewish leaders and clerics, as well as civic representatives were notably present.
As the bishop entered with the assisting clergy, the congregation sang the Byzantine Easter hymn “Almaseeh kam” – Christ is risen – with great intensity, as the bishop reached the great crossing and knelt in private prayer before being vested in his Episcopal order. The ceremony was presided over the retiring Primate, the Most Revd Clive Handford of Cyprus and the Gulf, and the newly elected Primate, the Most Revd Hanna Anis Mouneer, who will be installed later this week in Cairo, was also present.
The two-hour plus liturgy marked Bishop Suheil’s actual enthronement, his installation and the receiving gifts from laity, clergy and guests, many symbols of his new role in the diocese. A gospel book, bread and wine for the Eucharist, Water for baptism, oil for healing, incense, a candle, an olive branch of peace and goodwill and roses in honour of the Virgin Mary. The vestments were given by the Diocese of Los Angeles with Bishop Bruno placing the miter on the bishop during the rite. This diocese has strong ties with the Palestinian Christian community, supporting work in some of the most hard hit areas as a result of the current crisis.
Among those participating in the liturgy were Dr Stephen Need, Dean of St George’s College, Canon John Peterson of Washington National Cathedral, the two previous Bishops,Samir Kafity and Riah Abu El Assal, and event organiser Canon Samir Habiby. Father Alan Moses, All Saints Margaret Street, London represented the United Society for the Propagation of the Gospel (USPG), and the English Bishops of Warwick, Southhampton and Tonbridge, were present. The Lutheran World Federation, Lambeth Palace, Australia/New Zealand St George’s College Group, the Anglican Communion Office, the Church Army and the “mother” mission society, Church Mission Society (CMS), were all well represented.
The well constructed liturgy was duly orchestrated by the Acting Dean, Canon Hosam Naoum and the Revd Fr Samuel Barhoum of Holy Family Parish.
In his sermon, given in Arabic and summarised in English, Bishop Suheil called for a strong Christian proclamation in the days ahead in the Holy Land. He made repeated references for dialogue with “sister faiths” and recognised the “mutual sufferings” of Muslims, Jews and Christians, and called for Israel and Palestine to “accept each other and forgive”. He said Jesus Christ’s call is “a mission of reconciliation with justice and peace with human dignity” for all. He said, “we need bridges of peace, not walls of separation.” Bishop Suheil said clearly that the current situation is a “critical time” for all. His call and vision is for “Jesus Christ to increase” in this diocese.
A rite of sprinkling followed the renewal of baptismal vows and the liturgy continued with a Solemn Eucharist, with clergy administering Holy Communion in the courtyard to the overflow congregation. During communion a children’s choir from Ramallah sang repeatedly “We shall live in peace, we shall overcome, we’ll walk hand in hand” at which point the hundreds present joined in the singing, as many shed tears of sorrow, hope and joy. As one parishioner said, “it was a moment of great release.”
Also present were St George College course members from All Saints Church, Beverly Hills, USA and the Great St Mary’s Church, Cambridge, UK.
Earlier that day the cathedral was also full for the regular Sunday Eucharist, attending by scores of pilgrims and local Christians. Bishop Jon Bruno preached a powerful sermon on the resurrection calling on the congregation be in “solidarity” with plight of the Palestinians in this land and his concern for the dwindling Christian population.
In the bishop’s official Easter message he said, “Now, as ever, Jesus Christ is the hope of the world. He is the hope of the Christians of the Holy Land. According to His wisdom, we shall look positively to the future. As Christians we shall face the future with a hope that grows out of our faith in the providence and purpose of God, Jesus Christ.
“In this situation of suffering we are in, many people are afraid of what lies ahead of them. It is especially the young people who feel insecure about their future. Yet, as Christians we have great hope in our present life and our future. We should transmit this hope to our new generation through our concern and our joint efforts to work together in order to preserve the Christian presence and witness in the land of the Holy One. Now is the time to unite our voices, our deeds and actions, and to show our light to the whole world: the light of Jesus that leads the way in this dark tunnel of turmoil, poverty, despair, unrest and hatred.”
The Diocese of Jerusalem, although small in numbers, maintains over 30 institutions of education and care for the people of Israel, Palestine and Jordan.
Article by: Jim Rosenthal - Director of Communications, ACO