By Lisa Zengarini
Although in a reduced form, this year Catholics in the Holy Land were able to celebrate Palm Sunday. After a year-long suspension of public Masses and celebrations due the Coronavirus pandemic, an estimated 1,000 faithful took part in the traditional procession to the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem, celebrating the triumphant entry of Jesus into the Holy City.
Presiding over the celebration was Patriarch Pierbattista Pizzaballa, OFM, who remarked that, although only a small representation was present, Christians from all over the world were praying with the congregation ”with their hearts and minds turned to Jerusalem”.
Jerusalem must preserve its vocation to be a house of prayer for all peoples
His Beatitude Pizzaballa reminded that it is part of the specific mission of the Church of Jerusalem “to pray for this Holy City and to preserve her vocation to be a house of prayer for all peoples, where all are equally citizens, and where every believer finds his own home in it. We, the Church of Jerusalem, love this city, in which the roots of our Christian identity lie”, he continued. “She represents for each of us the desire for universal reconciliation and peace that God desires for the whole human family. And for this, we want to pray and work, so that this desire and this prophecy can come true”.
Wounds and divisions must not discourage Christians in the Holy Land
His Beatitude Pizzaballa emphasized that the wounds and divisions that unfortunately still characterize the life of the Holy City must not discourage Christians in the Holy Land: “On the contrary, they must push us with ever greater determination to bear witness to the faith in Christ's victory over death, to be, as Church, a sign of unity and reconciliation. We must not doubt this!”, he said. “For this – the Patriarch explained - we bless the city with the cross, so that it may be more and more marked by the love of Christ, and become a place of encounter, respect and mutual acceptance. Nothing therefore frightens us the continuous obstacles of every day do not stop our charity, no one thinks they are extinguishing our joy as believers in Christ, son of David!”, he concluded.
Public religious celebrations gradually resuming in Israel
Public religious celebrations are gradually resuming in Israel, as it continues to make significant progress in its Covid-19 vaccination campaign. The situation is, however, different in other territories of the Holy Land, namely in the Palestinian Territories and in Jordan, where restrictions are still in force, due to the fact that the vaccination rollout lags well behind Israel. Local Christians are amongst the most hardly hit by the pandemic, as they largely depend on religious tourism and pilgrimages, which have come to a halt and hopefully will resume this Summer.