It was 5.00 p.m. on Monday 9 October: for the second time in the day, the sirens went off in Jerusalem, while the daily procession of the Franciscan friars of the Custody of the Holy Land started in the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre. “We ask the Lord for the gift of peace: for the whole world, but in particular for this martyred land, the Holy Land, for the people who live here, so that they may live together” said the President of the Holy Sepulchre, fra Stéphane Milovitch, before the final prayer.
Ask for peace for Jerusalem
“For more than seven centuries, the Franciscans, in times of war or peace, of excavation or work, have visited every day the places of the passion of Jesus,” fra Stéphane explains in an interview after the procession. “Christ rose here! He defeated the world here! At the end of the daily procession, we pray for peace. Today, we wanted our prayer to be oriented in particular towards peace for this land, which is now tormented another time, so that everyone can live in this land in peace and in safety.”
The streets are deserted, the sanctuaries are open
Outside, the streets of Jerusalem are semi-deserted. In the Old City, the shops in the souk are shuttered. Only the groups of pilgrims continue to stream into the sanctuaries, until they leave. We met them at the Holy Sepulchre, as they queued to enter the Edicule of the Tomb. Not everyone realizes the situation, in general those who are travelling with organized groups have not had any problems in moving around and their programmes have been subject to few limitations, even although almost everyone will be returning home early. “Our sanctuaries remain open for the time being, especially to allow the pilgrimages underway to be able to carry out their spiritual experience as well as possible,” is the directive of the Custody of the Holy Land.
Prayer and a fast for peace
The Custody of the Holy Land issued a note on 10 October inviting all faithful to “pray and fast for peace”, as also recommended by the Pope at the Angelus last Sunday. “In the sanctuaries in our care,” the note continues, “our fraternities are praying for all the victims, especially the civilians and the hostages, and for their families. Let us pray so that the hatred, anger and fear that generate violence can be extinguished in hearts. Let us pray so that the international community fosters initiatives of mediation and peace to protect, in particular, civilians. In this situation, although with prudence, our fraternities are continuing to take care of the local faithful and of the groups of pilgrims that are blocked in the country.” In the note there is an explicit invitation to “suspend pilgrimages and wait for the situation to be safe again,” continuing to “trust in the Lord, knowing well that our life in in His care.”