Archbishop of Canterbury spends Palm Sunday with church in Jerusalem

April 14, 2003

Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams spent Palm Sunday with the Christians in Jerusalem, issuing a pastoral letter to Christians in the Middle East and preaching at the Anglican Cathedral of St. George the Martyr in Jerusalem.

In his letter, presented to Bishop Riah Abu El-Assal, the Anglican bishop in Jerusalem, during a dinner with church leaders, Williams said that 'for the last few months, with all the suffering and fear they have brought, it has been so painfully clear that without peace and justice for all the peoples of the Holy Land there is small hope of lasting reconciliation in the wider world.'

'Peace never comes without cost; so the deepest enemy to peace is always the spirit of grasping and clinging to what makes us feel safe while the truth is that we shall only be safe when others are not frightened of us, when others do not feel silenced, despised, or suffocated by us,' Williams said in his letter. 'Meanwhile, those who love violence continue to keep the wounds open. Disproportionate, indiscriminate force, applied not only by weaponry but by constant harassment; the insane butchery of terrorism, dressed up as heroism--these things serve only to keep the door firmly closed to any hope of taking away fear.'

As believers and human beings 'we stand at the gates of the city…where so many sufferers are silenced and where so many innocent on both sides of the terrible conflict are killed and their deaths hidden under a cloak of angry, selfish, posturing words.' One must recognize that people share 'the passionate longing never to be a victim again, the hunger for security expressed in the ownership of the land, the impotent near-mindless fury that bursts out in suicidal ways, and brings destruction to so many,' Williams said in his sermon.

'Jesus does not steer us away from the gates and send us back into the holy silence of the desert or the peace of the countryside. He keeps us close to him as we stand at the gates and he tells us that these are also the gates of heaven,' Williams said. 'If you recognize your involvement and prepare to walk with Jesus into the city, to the cross and the tomb, there is a joy and a mystery at the end of the path because it is inexhaustible divine love that walks with us. We stand not just at the gates of the city of wrong,' as one great Muslim writer called it, 'the great city where the Lord was crucified, as revelation says, but also at the entrance to the Garden of Eden.'

'At these city gates we see the possibilities,' Williams added. 'We can enter with Jesus and walk with him to his garden of new life. Or we can enter and find ourselves caught up in the murderous crowds and, at the end of it all, find ourselves with hands both empty and bloodstained. Or we can stay at the gates, unwilling to commit ourselves because we know that as soon as we enter there sill be trail and suffering; but if we stay there we shall never reach the garden.'

Texts of the pastoral letter ( and the sermon ( are available on the Anglican Communion News Service.