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Archbishop's meetings with religious leaders in Jerusalem

L-R: Mr Oded Wiener, Archbishop Rowan Williams, Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar, Chief Rabbi Yonah Metzger. Photo: Nicola Green

Friday 3rd February 2012

Following a personal pilgrimage to the Holy Land, the Archbishop of Canterbury participated in a number of meetings with religious leaders, during which he commented on the good personal relationships between the leaders of the different faiths and expressed his appreciation of the warm welcome he had received in the region.

The first of these engagements was an informal gathering of ecumenical Christian leaders at Dormition Abbey, hosted by Archbishop Rowan and Abbot Gregory.  The next day the Archbishop attended a meeting of the Core Group of the Council of Religious Institutions of the Holy Land in the offices of the Christian representative to the Core Group, Bishop Dr Mounib Younan (Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land).  Mr Oded Wiener represented the Office of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel, and Mr Salah Zuhayka represented the Ministry of Religious Affairs at the Palestinian Authority.  Also present were Canon Dr Trond Bakkevig (the Council’s Convenor), Rabbi David Rosen, Sir Vincent Fean (UK Consul General in Jerusalem) and Bishop Suheil Dawani of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem.  The members of the Core Group discussed some of their key projects with the Archbishop, as well as wider issues such as the separation of families, attacks on holy places and incitement to hatred. 

The Archbishop also met with the Chief Rabbinate of Israel.  This meeting was the fifth in the formal dialogue between Lambeth Palace and the Chief Rabbinate, which began in 2006.  Archbishop Rowan was welcomed by Chief Rabbi Yonah Metzger (Chief Rabbi of Israel) and Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar (Rishon LeZion and Chief Rabbi of Israel).  Also present were Rabbi Shear Yashuv Cohen (Chief Rabbi Emeritus of Haifa and co-chair of the Anglican-Jewish Commission), Rabbi David Rosen (Advisor to the Chief Rabbinate on Interreligious Affairs) and Mr Oded Wiener (Director-General of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel).  The Communiqué of the meeting can be found below.

The Archbishop attended a lunch reception with members of the Israeli Council of Religious Leaders, after which he travelled to Ramallah to meet with Mr Mahmoud al-Habash, Minister of Awqaf and Religious Affairs at the Palestinian Authority and member of the Council of Religious Institutions of the Holy Land.  The meeting had been arranged by Dr Trond Bakkevig, Convenor of the Council, who was also in attendance along with Bishop Suheil Dawani. During this meeting Minister al-Habash spoke of the enormous contribution made by the Palestinian Christian communities and the institutions run by the churches. He and the Archbishop also discussed some of the particular problems experienced by Christians including the difficulties in accessing holy sites and the emigration of many abroad.

Throughout the series of meetings, the Archbishop expressed his concern at the current impasse in the peace process.  His hope, he said, was that the Holy Land would be a place where no one is demeaned or humiliated, but where people from different religious traditions could move from mere tolerance of the other to a sense of seeing the face of God in the face of the other.

Communiqué of the Fifth Meeting

of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel

and the Archbishop of Canterbury


The Fifth Meeting of the Chief Rabbis of Israel and the Archbishop of Canterbury took place at the Jerusalem offices of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel in Jerusalem on 2nd February 2012 / 9th Shevat, 5772 in keeping with their joint protocol signed in 2006/5766.

The Most Revd. Dr. Rowan Williams accompanied by the Rt. Revd. Suheil Dawani, Anglican Bishop in Jerusalem, the Revd. Dr. Toby Howarth, the Archbishop's Secretary for Inter religious Affairs, the Revd Canon Jonathan Goodall, the Archbishop’s Secretary for Ecumenical Affairs and the Revd Canon Hosam Naoum were welcomed by Rabbi Yonah Metzger, Chief Rabbi of Israel and Rabbi Shlomo Amar, Rishon LeZion and Chief Rabbi of Israel, supported by Rabbi Shear Yashuv Cohen, Chief Rabbi Emeritus of Haifa and co-chair of the Anglican-Jewish Commission; Rabbi David Rosen, Advisor to the Chief Rabbinate on Interreligious Affairs and Mr Oded Wiener, Director-General of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel.

After warm greetings, the Archbishop expressed his appreciation to the representatives of the Chief Rabbinate for their work in helping to resolve the status of the Anglican Bishop in Jerusalem. The Archbishop spoke of the positive dialogue taking place between Jews and Christians in the United Kingdom, and the 70th anniversary celebrations this year of the founding of the Council for Christians and Jews by his predecessor, Archbishop William Temple, and Chief Rabbi Joseph H. Hertz. He also mentioned the important contribution of Rabbi Daniel Sperber and the President of the British Board of Deputies, Vivian Wienman at the International Conference on Christians in the Holy Land held at Lambeth Palace in July 2011 and hosted jointly by the Archbishops of Canterbury and Westminster.

The Chief Rabbis expressed their appreciation to the Archbishop for his message on the occasion of Holocaust Memorial Day and for his leadership in combatting expressions of anti-Semitism and all forms of regions bigotry. The Archbishop and the Chief Rabbis expressed their common commitment to the place of inter religious dialogue in the struggle for peace in the region.

The work of the Anglican Jewish Commission was commended. The Commission had met in June 2011 in Jerusalem and as well as giving an opportunity for sharing on matters of common concern, the meeting had also focused on the place of the Psalms in Jewish and Christian liturgy.  The outstanding contributions of Canon Guy Wilkinson and Mrs Clare Amos, both of whom have now left the Anglican Jewish Commission, were recognised and honoured.

Turning to the theme of the next Anglican Jewish Commission meeting, the Archbishop and the Chief Rabbis suggested that the Commission might take up the subject of religion and democracy, noting the important question, 'What kind of society, morally and spiritually, do we wish to be?'

The Chief Rabbis and the Archbishop discussed a number of areas of further common concern, some of which had arisen in the Archbishop’s meeting earlier that day with the Core Group of the Council of Religious Institutions of the Holy Land. These included access to religious sites, the particular needs of the diverse Christian communities in the Holy Land, the excellent work on school textbooks that was being undertaken by the Council, a common commitment to denouncing any form of violence against or desecration of religious places, and a common concern about incitement to hatred.  The Archbishop noted that the draft Code on Access to Holy Sites was being discussed by networks of the Anglican Communion.  The work of the Council of Religious Institutions of the Holy Land was commended, as was the work of the Israel Council of Religious Leaders, with whom the Archbishop was meeting immediately following his meeting with the Chief Rabbinate and a renewed commitment to the work of the Anglican Jewish Commission.

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