At the beginning of the ‘True Life in God’ pilgrimage in Egypt all the participants of the ecumenical and inter-religious group were invited to a Divine Liturgy held at the Greek Orthodox Monastery of St. George in Old Cairo. Copied here is the address of Bishop of Babylon, Theofylaktos, given at the end of the Liturgy on 22nd October 2002: “My beloved brothers, bishops, elders of all the Christian denominations, I welcome you with special love in this holy monastery. I bring you the greetings and blessings of His All-Holiness, our Patriarch, Pope of Alexandria and all Africa, His Holiness Peter VII, who couldn’t be with you all because of other duties. He is wishing you a pleasant stay in the country of the Nile, Egypt.
The place in which you are today is not only holy but also ‘Theovadistos’ (walked by God). Here the Holy Family came and stayed for approximately 18 months, fleeing Herod’s terror. Here Jesus Christ took His first steps, here the little Emmanuel heard the first chirping of the birds. Our monastery is one of the most ancient monuments that North Africa has to show, built in the 4th century AC. Here is where St. George the great martyr was imprisoned for 30 months and from here his martyrdom started and ended in a small town in Palestine.
I’m especially glad for all of us gathering here today and raised our hands in common prayer and supplication towards God for peace for the whole world and for all the peoples on earth. Humanity is suffering from wars and other kinds of catastrophes. We, as the representatives of all Christian denominations and other religions, have the duty to teach our peoples to live in reconciliation with all people. Unfortunately, we all have forgotten that we have common roots, common Father, God and Creator of the Universe. Enough! The earth is tired of receiving, for centuries now, unjustly shed brotherly blood! Man must understand someday that differences aren’t solved with weapons but by the language of the heart and of love. Someday we all must work, and are obliged to do it with all our power, towards this direction: to try and reconcile man first with God and then with his fellowman, because in the Eyes of God we are all the same! St. Paul says there is no Jew nor Greek, slave or free man, man or woman. All, in the Eyes of Christ, are one.
Our gathering today should have a cause, so that all of us make it our daily program in our life to pray everyday so that peace prevails in the world. We should take the message of peace and love and carry it to the peoples of all the earth. We can indeed be the new apostles that will speak of love and peace. Everyday we hear by the media about catastrophes and violence among peoples. Wherever one might turn his eyes will see destruction, fires, human casualties and will hear weeping and laments. Maybe it sounds illogical, but we, the Patriarchate of Alexandria, for 2000 years now, coexist in harmony, in friendship, with love, with all the people of Egypt that are Muslims. We never had any problem. See every morning when the sun rises, it doesn’t differentiate where it will send it’s rays, either to the Christians, the Muslims, the Hindus or the Buddhists because we all live under the big sky, the love of God! If we put aside our personal interests, I’m sure that some day we will all be happy. We will shake hands in reconciliation. I believe and hope and pray that this day will come where the peoples of the world will meet at one point, will shake hands, will lament for the blood that was shed and they will reconcile for ever in their life.
From the land of Egypt, which is ‘Theovadistos’ (walked by God) exactly because Our Lord Jesus Christ walked on it, we are to send today to the ends of the world a brave message of love and peace: as we gathered today in the Church under the same dome and we didn’t differentiate Christians from non-Christians or of other religions. From today we will announce to the whole world that men can live in reconciliation as long as they learn to love first their God, whoever He is, whatever His Name is, and then I’m certain that love for their fellowman will spring also.
Pass on to the leaders of your Churches, to the leaders of your religions, to your people, to your communities, to your towns, to your villages, to your cities, to your countries our greetings and our blessings, our love. That we pray, a few Greeks, a few Christians, whatever the number, we pray for peace, for the whole world so that next year that I hope to have you close by, the smiles be wide! To reveal the message that there is no more war, no men are killed, there isn’t anymore unjustly brotherly bloodshed on earth!”