Solemn celebration of the Third Week of Lent in Jerusalem | Custodia Terrae Sanctae

Solemn celebration of the Third Week of Lent in Jerusalem

Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre, 10-11 March, 2012

The Lenten observances at the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem continue. This third week of preparation for Easter saw solemn celebrations by the Franciscan community of the Holy Land and the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem.

On Saturday afternoon, H.E. Mgr. Kamal Batish, Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, once again made his Solemn Entry into the Basilica, welcomed as is customary by Fr. Fergus Clarke, Guardian of the Holy Sepulchre, Fr. Artemio Vitores, Custodial Vicar, Fr. Silvio De La Fuente, Custodial Secretary, and numerous other Franciscan Friars of the Holy Land. After venerating the Stone of Unction, and the Empty Tomb of the Lord, Mgr. Batish led the solemn daily procession, with organ accompaniment, starting from the Chapel of the Blessed Sacrament (or the Apparition of the Risen Jesus to Mary, His Mother) and continuing along the fourteen stations that make up the devotional journey inside the Basilica, punctuating each stop with a time of meditation, singing and prayer. They were joined, not only by many religious belonging to congregations present in the Holy Land and local Arabic-speaking Christians, but also by many pilgrims who, as Holy Week approaches, are arriving in increasing numbers, each bringing his own sensitivity, curiosity and yearning for salvation, to visit these special places where all things were made complete.

Alongside the Latin Church, the other Christian communities celebrated their own Lenten liturgies, as they do every week.

Later in the evening, starting at 23:30, the Franciscans of the Custody, together with many members of the local clergy and small groups of pilgrims, again assembled at the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre for the nocturnal vigil. With Fr. Artemio Vitores presiding, the vigil began, as in previous weeks, in the Chapel of the Apparition, and then continued with the procession commemorating the Resurrection of the Lord, circling the Aedicule of the Holy Sepulchre, with the Holy Gospel and lighted candles. After briefly praying at the Empty Tomb of Jesus, Fr. Artemio imparted the Solemn Benediction to the faithful. The vigil then continued in the Chapel of the Apparition, with the reading of the Gospel of the Resurrection, the solemn acclamation of the Risen Lord and the concluding rites. Finally, Brother Artemio, surrounded by friars and other religious, presided over the celebration of Holy Mass at Calvary, ending the Lenten celebration in prayer.

The conclusion of the week’s observances was at 8:30 on the morning of the Third Sunday in Lent. A solemn, sung Mass was concelebrated at the St. Mary Magdalene Altar in the Holy Sepulchre, preceded by Morning Prayer, which again brought together a large number of Franciscan friars of the Holy Land, many other religious and local Christians, and more pilgrims from various countries. H.E. Mgr. Fouad Twal, Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, was met at the patriarchate by the Franciscans of the Custody, and was escorted by them in procession to make his Solemn Entry into the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre, to be present at Sunday Mass, as set down by the liturgical program. Met by Fr. Fergus Clarke, Mgr. Twal venerated the Stone of Unction and the Empty Tomb, and then took his place in front of the altar of St. Mary Madeleine, a few steps away from the Aedicule of the Holy Sepulchre. At the patriarch’s side, together with the many other concelebrants, were Fr. Fergus Clarke and Fr. Silvio De La Fuente, Custodial Secretary. The homily was delivered from the ambo next to the altar by Fr. Simon Herro, Parochial Vicar of Saint Saviour's Church. Also attending the Mass was Sergeant Major Johnny Kassabri, the official of the police sub-district at Jaffa Gate who is responsible for relations with the Christian community.

At the close of the celebration, Mgr. Twal and his entourage were again accompanied by the Franciscan friars in procession through the Christian Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem and back to the Patriarchate.

Text by Caterina Foppa Pedretti
Photography by Bro. Giorgio Vigna