Tuesday, 23 May 2017

O pray for the peace of Jerusalem
and for a new Anglican Primate

With Archbishop Suheil Dawani of Jerusalem in Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin

Patrick Comerford

The visit of Donald Trump to Jerusalem and Bethlehem today, and the potential for a frightening fallout from last night’s horrific attack in Manchester has caused me to pray all day for the peace of Jerusalem and for the good people of all faith for whom Jerusalem is a sacred and holy city – Muslims, Christians and Jews.

Anglicans in the Middle East have been in my prayers in a special way since last week, when Archbishop Suheil Dawani of the Diocese of Jerusalem was elected as the next Primate of the Episcopal Church of the Province of Jerusalem and the Middle East. He succeeds Archbishop Mouneer Hanna Anis, who has held this post since 2007.

In referring to the importance of Jerusalem, Archbishop Suheil emphasises that he sees it as his duty, and that of all Christians, to make Jerusalem a model for peace between the three Abrahamic faiths. He says, ‘It is our task to give hope to the hopeless. In our daily lives, may we be guided by the star of God’s love.’

Archbishop Dawani will serve as Primate for a period of 2½ years, to be followed by Bishop Michael Lewis of the Diocese of Cyprus and the Gulf. Bishop Michael, who will serve for the same length of time, ending in May 2022, was one of the speakers at the USPG conference in High Leigh three years ago [2014].

The changes were agreed last week at a two-day meeting of the Synod of the Church of the Province of Jerusalem and the Middle East, in Amman, Jordan. In a statement issued last week, the Synod said: ‘We congratulate both Archbishop Suheil and Bishop Michael on their appointments, and we give thanks for Archbishop Mouneer’s service as our Primate since 2007 … Please uphold the Province of Jerusalem and the Middle East in your prayers.’

I met Archbishop Suheil Dawani and his wife Shafeeqa most recently when they visited Dublin at the end of last year [1-7 December 2016]. Their visit was part of the Jerusalem Link partnership between the dioceses and the programme has been put together by the Diocesan Council for Mission. During that visit, Archbishop Suheil gave a reflection at an ecumenical service in Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin.

The Anglican Diocese of Jerusalem has 27 parishes spread through the five political regions of Israel, Palestine, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon. The new Primate is a strong advocate of peace and reconciliation and is engaged in many ecumenical and interfaith projects, and he works closely with the Archbishop of Canterbury on Anglican and interfaith issues. He is one of the 13 recognised Heads of Churches in Israel.

The Most Revd Bishop Suheil Salman Dawani was consecrated as Bishop Coadjutor of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem in 2006, and he was installed as the diocesan bishop and the 14th Anglican Bishop in Jerusalem in 2007.

Dr Dawani was born in Nablus on the West Bank in 1951, studied at the Near East School of Theology in Beirut, and was ordained deacon in 1976 and priest in 1977. He served at Saint George’s Cathedral, Jerusalem, Saint Andrew’s, Ramallah, and Saint Peter’s, Bir Zeit, in the West Bank. He then studied at Virginia Theological Seminary in the US, and in 1987 he was appointed the priest-in-charge of Saint John’s Church, Haifa.

He then served again in Ramallah and Bir-Zeit until 1997, when he was elected the General Secretary of the Diocese of Jerusalem and returned to Saint George's Cathedral, Jerusalem, as the canon pastor of the Arabic-speaking congregation. There he was engaged in ecumenical and interfaith work, organised summer camps for Muslim and Christian children, and led a visit by a Jewish-Arab group to the US under the name ‘Kids for Peace.’ He returned to Ramallah, until 2007, when he became diocesan bishop.

At that service in Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin, last December, the Introit sung by the cathedral choir was a setting of an Armenian vesting hymn by the late Theo Saunders (1957-2016), and concluded:

Heavenly King, preserve thy Church unshaken,
and keep the worshippers of Thy name in peace.


The theme of peace in Jerusalem returned in the anthem by Herbert Howells (1892-1983) drawing on words in Psalm 122: 6-7:

O pray for the peace of Jerusalem, they shall prosper that love thee.
Peace be within thy walls, and plenteousness within thy palaces.


Patrick Comerford with Archishop Mouneer Anis of Cairo at the USPG conference in in High Leigh in 2011