Holy Week 2021 in Jerusalem opened on 28 March with the procession and solemn mass of Palm Sunday in the Holy Sepulchre. The celebration presided by the Latin Patriarch, Mons. Pierbattista Pizzaballa, was attended by an assembly of local worshippers: a sign of hope to a return to a normal life, after last year when, because of the health emergency, the liturgy of Palm Sunday at the Holy Sepulchre took place behind closed doors.
In the Holy Edicule, where there is the tomb in which Jesus was laid and brought back to life, Mons. PierbattistaPizzaballablessed the palm fronds and the olive branches, which were then distributed to the faithful. On the day when the triumphant entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem amid the crowds singing his praises is celebrated, the assembly waved palms and olive branches in the Holy Sepulchre as well, during the procession which went round the edicule three times, amidst the singing and the music of the organ.
Then it was time for the Pontifical Mass, in which three friars of the Custody of the Holy Land sang the Passion of Our Lord Jesus. Mons. Pizzaballa wanted to observe a moment of silence after the reading of the Gospel which goes over the last moments of suffering of Jesus, before his death.
“The Holy Week is also called the week of the Passion, so it is a week in which we join in prayer with all the people who cannot take part because they are suffering because of Coronavirus or other forms of suffering,” said Mons. Pizzaballa at the end of the celebration. However, we have to remember that on Palm Sunday, we acclaim Jesus as Christ, as our King, as the son of David. We say Hosanna. We must not forget that beyond the suffering and the pain, there is also a presence of comfort and consolation.” The Patriarch then recalled the faithful who were not present: “We have a good part of the diocese which is still going through a dramatic situation, because of Coronavirus: I am thinking of Palestine and Jordan, but we can be happy that at least in Jerusalem we can celebrate in a way that is almost normal.”
The entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem is remembered every year in the Holy Land with a large procession that travels over the steps of Jesus from the church of Bethphage on the Mount of Olives. The Jerusalemites were able to repeat this procession once again, after last year’s sad prohibition which meant that the procession was canceled. The procession took place with reduced numbers but, according to Mons. Pizzaballa, “it was important to do it, it is important to give signs of normality and confidence in a return to normal life.”
In agreement with the local regulations, to take part in what is one of the most important public Christian events for Jerusalem, the crowd had to be divided into small groups of fifty people. The procession was opened by the local Latin Scouts, then followed by the parish priest of Jerusalem, some school pupils, the parishioners, the groups of the pastoral of immigrants (many of whom come from India, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, and various African countries), the religious and the seminarians. The procession was closed by the Franciscan friars of the Custody of the Holy Land, the Latin Patriarch Mons. PierbattistaPizzaballa, the Custos of the Holy Land, Fr. Francesco Patton, and the Apostolic Nuncio Mons. Leopoldo Girelli.
Coming down from the Mount of Olives towards the city, the Latin Patriarch stopped at the shrine of Dominus Flevit, which stands on the place where Jesus looked at Jerusalem and wept over it (Matthew 24; Mark 13 and Luke 21.). From there, Mons. Pizzaballagave a special blessing to the city of Jerusalem, repeating his gesture of last year.
“We have just stopped at Dominus Flevitto pray on this Holy City of ours and bless it with the relic of the cross,” the Patriarch explained at the end of the procession, in front of the entrance to the Old City. For us as believers, the cross is a sign of victory, of love, of redemption, and forgiveness. This is what each of us needs and what our city, Jerusalem, needs. Our church has a mission: to pray for the peace of Jerusalem. Every believer can find his home here because Jerusalem is the house of prayer for everyone, as the Bible says. Today we are committed as the Church of Jerusalem to pray for the redemption of this city, for our community which has to be the first to show love, redemption, forgiveness, and victory.”.
The Latin Patriarch underlined the importance of being grateful to God for the possibility of celebrating Palm Sunday and prayed, “Lord Jesus, you who with your Holy Cross redeemed the world, bless us and all the inhabitants of this city of ours, give us a heart that is capable of loving with the same love as you and make us worthy witnesses of your resurrection.”