By the mercy of God, Pope and Patriarch of Alexandria and All Africa,
to all the faithful of our Apostolic and Patriarchal Throne,
Grace and Mercy and Peace
from our Risen Lord and God and Saviour, Jesus Christ.
My dear brethren,
In the five years of my tenure as Patriarch, this is the first time that the joyous announcement of the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ does not find me in the renowned City of Alexandria, but in the southern part of the African continent – a continent that has, over the centuries, fallen victim to exploitation, that has yet to be fully liberated from the chains of oppression. It has yet to be assisted decisively in rising and breathing freely. As a continent, it includes the overwhelming majority of the poorest of the world’s people. It is a continent with enormous pastoral and humanitarian needs.
It is truly a blessing from God that this Pascha finds me in South Africa, where the wisdom and the witness to the struggle for freedom, shines forth in the charismatic person of Nelson Mandela. Using the opportunity of my presence here, it is useful for us to ponder on what the people of Africa have achieved with their struggles and how many more efforts need to be made for the total restoration of human rights.
Traversing this continent from north to south, I encounter societies that, in name, are founded on the principle of equality. In reality through they do not even defend basic rights such as the right to life, to freedom, to peace, to education, to labour, to happiness. With pain in my heart, I see people being deprived of food and facing death. I travel through countries that are torn apart by irrational wars. I come face to face with the inhabitants that have been forcefully distanced from their peaceful existence and endeavours and now live in societies in which brotherhood and tolerance have given way to mutual extermination and lack of mutual respect. I am saddened seeing God’s creation being plundered and destroyed without having consideration for future generations. I am approached by innocent children, living in make-shift grass huts or in the shade of trees, searching with fear in their eyes, for shelter from life’s hardships and for the right to a better future.
I ask and wonder…I ask why all these things should happen and wonder how much distance we have yet to cover till we reach the day when the inhabitants of this long suffering continent, regardless of race, colour, religion, social class and nationality, can enjoy the divine gift of life with freedom and dignity!
And yet, my brothers and sisters, things can change. Christ is Risen! “Come all ye nations and know the power of the awesome mystery. Christ our Saviour…has risen from the dead in order to save all that is.” (Lauds of the Matins of Sunday, Third Tone). In this hymn, three essential elements are distinguished: Resurrection! Life! Power! An inexhaustible power for the transfiguration of Life!
If we all comprehend that Christ suffered, was put to death and rose for all of us regardless, then tolerance, understanding, respect and love will find a place in our societies. People may have different starting points but they have a common destination – the sanctifying elevation of human existence as in the image and likeness of God.
Some time ago, during an exhausting missionary trip in the land of Cameroon, I was approached by a wise elder. We spoke about life, nature, mankind and our common Heavenly Father. At some point this wise African said, “Man lost his way from the moment he believed that he does not constitute a part of God’s creation. He neglected nature and stopped being taught by her. He would otherwise have realised that the beauty of nature is due to the harmony of opposites and differences!”
It is therefore necessary for us to work for the true enlightenment of people. We are obliged to confront dogmatism and to follow the difficult but certain way of faith in the Risen Lord – in Him especially who established these universal values. In forgetting these values we have led our world to all sorts of crises such as the one the world community is presently going through.
The words of Nelson Mandela are always pertinent and reflect my own life’s philosophy, “Never, never again should this beautiful land live through the oppression of one over another…we should build a society in which all walk with head held high, without fear in their hearts, certain of our undeniable right to human dignity”…this is an ideal for which I hope to live and to make real.
With these paternal thoughts and concerns, I address to all the victorious certainty, “Christ is Risen!”, hoping that this Pascha constitutes the start to a new perception of the world, a world bathed in the abundant and unwaning Light of the Resurrection.
Pope and Patriarch of Alexandria and All Africa
In Johannesburg of South Africa
Holy Pascha 2010