A prayer vigil on the Vigil of Pentecost to invoke the gift of peace for the Holy Land is the initiative of the Assembly of Catholic Ordinaries of the Holy Land (AOCTS) who, with the collaboration of the Union of Religious (USRTS) and of the Episcopal Committee of Religious (CERTS), wanted to bring together the faithful in St Stephen’s Church in Jerusalem on Saturday 22 May. The call to prayer for the Holy Land on the vigil of Pentecost was also shared by the Holy Father, Pope Francis, who on Friday 21 May asked all the pastors and the faithful of the Catholic Church: “May every community pray to the Holy Spirit so that Israelis and Palestinians may find the path of dialogue and forgiveness, be patient builders of peace and justice and be open, step by step, to a common hope, to co-existence among brothers and sisters” (words taken from the Regina Coeli of 16 May 2021).
The celebration in St Stephen’s Church in Jerusalem opened with the exchange of the sign of peace, to emphasise the character of the liturgy.
“The first word pronounced by Jesus in the Cenacle, after the resurrection was, “Peace be with you”, then he breathed the Holy Spirit on the disciples (John 20, 19). This is why we are also here, in a sort of new Cenacle, to ask the Risen Lord for peace, the first of the fruits of the Holy Spirit,” said the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Mons. Pierbattista Pizzaballa. The bishop recalled in the prayer all those who have been killed or who have lost their homes in this latest wave of violence in the Holy Land and asked for the intercession of the Holy Spirit so that everyone can become, through the grace of the Spirit, builders of peace (the complete homily is here).
The Catholic Ordinaries of the Holy Land also decided to organize a similar vigil in every symbolic place of their diocese or Exarchate . “The Custody took part in the prayer vigil for peace and for this reason we offered the Pentecost Vigil Mass,” said the Custos of the Holy Land. In St Saviour’s Church in Jerusalem, Fr. Patton presided the celebration on the evening of Saturday 22 May, in the presence of the Franciscan friars who live in the convent and the faithful of the Latin parish.
“This evening we want to ask the Holy Spirit with faith to come once again towards our weakness and intercede with inexpressible sighs in favour of Jerusalem, this Holy Land, the Middle East and so many other countries which are without peace in the whole world,” the Custos said in his homily. Fr. Patton stated that he was not afraid of seeming “embarrassing, antiquated, superseded,” if we ask the Holy Spirit to intercede for the end of the pandemic or the end of the conflicts in the Holy Land, in Syria, in Yemen, as well as in Africa, Asia, Latin America and Eastern Europe. “We are here, once again, like children who trust their Father and who need to be guided by the Spirit of the Son, to ask with faith that division and hostility between peoples come to an end,” said Fr. Patton (the complete homily is here).
The vigil of Pentecost was celebrated in St Saviour’s Church, which is a place of strong symbolic value for the Custody of the Holy Land, Built in the convent where the Franciscan friars of the Holy Land, after having been chased out of the Cenacle by the Ottomans in 1552, the church was granted in 1561 by Pope Pius IV the same indulgences as those granted to those who went to the cenacle (find out more about St Saviour’s Church). At the centre of the juridical dispute, the room of the Cenacle on Mount Sion was the first seat of the Custody of the Holy Land after the purchase in 1333, as a gift from the sovereigns of Naples.
In the Crusader room of the Cenacle, the friars prayed the vespers of Pentecost on the afternoon of the feast day and incense then perfumed the room adjacent to that of the Last Supper of Jesus, where the Holy Spirit is believed to have descended on the apostles. Just like them in the cenacle, the friars said the prayer of “Our Father” in all languages.
“In this place and at this time, I feel that we must not only reflect on the gift of the Holy Spirit, but we must above all invoke it,” said the Custos of the Holy Land, who presided the vespers. “Holy Spirit, wash what is soiled, wet what is arid, heal what bleeds. Convert the hearts of all those who stupidly believe they can win with violence, console all those who, innocent, are victims of violence. Holy Spirit, there is a need for your wind to blow impetuously once again and strongly, between the houses of our Holy City, in this Middle East of ours which suffers and in the whole world [...]. And as in each generation, we Christians are called to face new and different problems, you, Spirit of truth and strength, give us the strength and the courage today, to still be the salt of the land and the light of the world ( the complete message is here).