The liturgical celebration in honour of Belgium was celebrated on 19 November in St Saviour’s church in Jerusalem.
This country – together with France, Italy and Spain – is considered one of the four “Catholic nations” that protect the Christian communities, for the role it has played in history since the beginning in relation to the Custody of the Holy Land, supporting and protecting the Franciscans in their mission of looking after, taking care of and maintaining the Holy Places.
The solemn Mass
The celebration, in the presence of the General Consul of Belgium in Jerusalem, Wilfred Pfeffer, accompanied by a diplomatic representation, was presided over by fr. Stéphane Milovitch president of the Holy Sepulchre. The numerous Belgian and French concelebrants present also included Olivier Poquillon, o.p. Director of the Ecole biblique et archéologique française of Jerusalem, showing the friendship that unites the two European countries and their historical bond with the Custody.
As per tradition, homage was paid to the linguistic diversity of Belgium with readings in French, Flemish and German, the three official languages spoken in the country, which a few days ago celebrated the Armistice of 11 November (Wapenstilstand), considered the end of the First World War and commemorated in several European countries.
“Called to be small seeds of peace”
In the homily, delivered by Father Frans Bouwen belonging to the Congregation of the White Fathers, the Belgian missionary wanted to emphasize how topical the message of the Gospel is in relation to the present-day situation in the Holy Land. “Jesus recounts the parable of the talents, when he feels that his departure is close,” said Father Bouwen. “The only object of reproach, in the parable, is the man who went to bury his talent, out of fear of committing himself, wanting to keep above all, his personal tranquillity.
“What can this dramatic situation that we are living through in this country tell us? We feel totally powerless in the face of so much violence, suffering and death. Yet we cannot remain indifferent: with the poor means at our disposal, we are called to be small seeds of peace where we live, rejecting all language of contempt and hatred, being close to the suffering of all the parties involved in the conflict and making ourselves available where we are required. Let us begin by keeping in our prayers all those who suffer, trying to keep our hearts free from every feeling of hostility and revenge: this is in itself not very much, but this way we can hope to make our humble contribution to sowing feelings of respect and mutual understanding. It is only through a change of mentalities and hearts that peace can put down roots and spread.”
Father Bouwen concluded his commentary on the Word by quoting the words Pope Francis pronounced last Sunday: “Every human being, whether Christian, Jewish or Muslim, or of any people or religion whatsoever, every human being is sacred and precious in the eyes of God and has the right to live in peace. Let us not lose hope: let us pray and work tirelessly so that the sense of humanity prevails over the harshness of the hearts.”
As usual for the celebrations attended by the diplomatic corps of the consulates, the festivity came to an end with refreshments in the Diwan Room at St Saviour’s, used for official receptions.