Palm Sunday in Jerusalem led by the Patriarch: “Let us cry with force that our reference in Jesus Christ”

Palm Sunday in Jerusalem led by the Patriarch: “Let us cry with force that our reference in Jesus Christ”

The Cardinal launches an appeal to pilgrims: “Don't be afraid, come back to Jerusalem and the Holy Land! Your presence is always a presence of peace”

Holy Week in Jerusalem started with the two solemn liturgical appointments of Palm Sunday, on 24 March.

In the very early morning, the procession around the edicule and the solemn Mass took place in the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem.

In the afternoon, there was the procession on foot to Bethphage towards St Anne’s church.

The procession and the solemn Mass

In the first part of the solemn liturgy, the Latin Patriarch His Beatitude Pierbattista Card. Pizzaballa blessed, in the Edicule of the Holy Sepulchre, the palms from Jericho and the olive branches brought from the Franciscan Convent of St Saviour. He then distributed them personally to the faithful, to then start the traditional procession. Remembering the day of the triumphant entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem amid the rejoicing crowd, while going around the Edicule  three times -  which symbolically recalls the three days spent by Jesus in the Tomb  – the participants joyously waved the palm and olive branches. The singing of the Hosanna echoed for a long time under the ceiling of the Rotonda of the Anastasis.

The Eucharistic celebration, on the other hand, took place at the altar of Mary Magdalena: the space in front of the Edicule was occupied by the Orthodox Church, which on the first Sunday of Lent, according to the Julian calendar, celebrates the Feast of Orthodoxy.

During the Pontifical Mass, there was another solemn moment:  the proclamation of the Gospel, which goes over the whole passion of Jesus. According to the ancient tradition which spread from the 11th century, the text was sung in Latin by three friars of the Custody of the Holy Land, who took the three roles in the passage from the Gospel -  Jesus, the chronicler and the crowd – singing them to three different melodies.

The procession on foot to Bethphage

In the afternoon, the celebrations moved to the Mount of Olives, for what is considered one of the most extraordinary public Christian manifestations. Although less well attended than last year, there were around 3,000 people. There were many religious present from the Christian communities and local faithful: the joyous crowd went down the road between Bethphage and Jerusalem in a procession, following in the steps of Jesus riding a donkey to enter the city to celebrate Passover. The faithful went down the Mount of Olives, holding olive and palm branches woven into beautiful garlands. Each in their own language, through prayers, songs and musical instruments, praised God and shared with the other faithful, along the way, the joy of being Christians.

The procession started at the church in Bethphage,  where the day before the  last Lenten peregrination of the friars had been held, and came to an end at St Anne’s church, at the Lion’s Gate. At the end of the long procession, the festive Franciscan friars of the Custody of the Holy Land animated the whole journey with songs and music, preceding the Latin Patriarch His Beatitude Pierbattista Card. Pizzaballa, the Custos of the Holy Land fr. Francesco Patton and Mons. Tito YllanaApostolic Nuncio in Israel and delegate in Jerusalem and Palestine, with many religious and authorities of other Christian confessions.

The Patriarch wanted to greet and thank all those present in the courtyard of St Anne’s church: “Despite the war, despite everything, we wanted this year again to celebrate the triumphant entrance of Jesus into the Holy City. But we do not want to forget all those who could not be here today. All the Christians of Palestine, especially our communities of Bethlehem, Beit Jala, Beit Sahour and Tajbeh'.

“Perhaps in these months,” Cardinal Pizzaballa continued, “we have felt lost, bewildered, alone and without any reference. Sometimes this very terrible war which seems never-ending , is making fear grow more and more for the future. But today we are here again, even though there are not very many of us, without pilgrims and without many of our brothers and sisters from many parts of our diocese who have not been able to join us. It doesn’t matter! Whether there are a few of us or many of us, what is important is being here, and strongly crying out with faith that we have a reference, Jesus Christ.  That we are not alone and that we are not abandoned, and above all that we are not afraid!”

In his words, he referred to the inhabitants of Gaza, whom he addressed with emotion: “Our thoughts go in particular to our brothers in Gaza. Dear brothers and sisters, you are not alone. The whole of the Church of Jerusalem is together with you, embraces you and thanks you for your testimony of force and courage. Together with us, all the churches, all our brothers and sisters in the world pray for you and with you.”

He then dedicated a final appeal to the many pilgrims  who, due to the conflict, have not been able to reach the Holy Land: “Dear brothers and sisters, we are waiting for you. Don’t be afraid, come back to Jerusalem and the Holy Land! Your presence is always a presence of peace and today we need peace so much, may you bring us your peace.”



Silvia Giuliano