The second Lenten Pilgrimage of the Franciscans to the Passion Shrines in Jerusalem arrived at their destination of the Basilica of Gethsemane. On the Mount of Olives, places linked to the Agony of Jesus have been venerated since ancient times.
The Olive Garden preserves, according to tradition, centuries-old olive trees that witnessed the Agony of Jesus. This garden contains eight of the oldest olive trees in the world.
The plants, the subject of recent investigations that have confirmed their longevity of more than eight centuries, were here when the Crusader church was built, and they are children of a single mother plant, even older, perhaps a true witness of Jesus' prayer in the garden.
Next to the garden is the Basilica of the Agony, also known as the Basilica of the Nations, or the Basilica of Gethsemane: the shrine that houses the stone of the Agony of Jesus.
Br DIEGO DALLA GASSA, ofm
"This church is approximately 100 years old: it was inaugurated in 1924 by the architect Barluzzi, who designed it. Mr Barluzzi wanted to represent history and theology in a brilliant way. When you enter the church, you have the impression of entering a dark place. But Barluzzi wanted to represent the night. And according to the rabbinical tradition, there are four nights that summarize the history of salvation: the night of creation, the night of Abraham, the night of Exodus - which would be Easter - and the night of the Messiah. Here Jesus accomplishes Salvation."
Gethsemane is one of the most visited shrines in Jerusalem.
Br BENITO JOSÉ CHOQUE, ofm
Guardian of the Basilica of Gethsemane
"Today, according to the bookings we had, we were supposed to welcome 50 groups, but unfortunately, no one came because it's not possible.
It's a very sad situation. We celebrate the Agony of the Lord and in this Eucharist, we remember all the pilgrims, all the people who are suffering because of the Coronavirus. Spiritually we are all united: the whole world embraces this holy place, the Rock of Agony."
Respecting the new rules imposed by the Israeli government, the friars placed the sufferings and anxieties of the whole world before the stone of Agony in the Eucharistic celebration presided over by Br Stéphane Milovitch, in which only the celebrants were able to participate.
Br ELIAZAR ARTEAGA CHAVERO, ofm
Holy Land Custody
"Let us pray together with the whole Church on this stone, where Jesus prayed to find strength and hope, in the face of this situation that we are living...may it help us to pray more deeply to the Father to ask Him to remove this chalice which we are now drinking with this situation. May the Lord truly help us and send His angel to comfort us as He did with Jesus: the Lord does not leave us alone, He will send His angel to console us in the circumstances before us."
Br DIEGO DALLA GASSA, ofm
"This is a place of passage, of salvation. We could say - and we would like to reach all the people who listen to us - that here Jesus, his yes, becomes stronger and denser. And he says his "yes" once and for all, to every person, to every person who struggles, who is in agony, who is in solitude, in darkness, in abandonment. He says "yes, I'm here with you." Never before has this announcement, this closeness to him been so strong."