Holy Land Christians and the Franciscans of the Holy Land joined together to joyfully celebrate Palm Sunday with a very large pilgrimage. Palm Sunday opened Holy Week in the Holy Land and throughout the Roman Catholic world as Catholics commemorate the entrance of Jesus Christ into the Holy City (Jerusalem).
Here is more from the Christian Media Center in the Holy Land.
It is Palm Sunday according to the Roman calendar. Holy Week in Jerusalem began at the Basilica of the Holy Sepulcher, with a solemn mass was presided by the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Mgr. Fouad Twal, together with Franciscan priests; local Christians and pilgrims were in attendance.
This celebration is the prelude to the Passover of the Lord, where the royal splendor of Christ comes together with the proclamation of His Passion. They go around the shrine three times singing Hosanna and shaking palms as a sign of praise to Christ.
The Singing of the Passion leads the faithful to look to Christ, who, as the Gospels recount, gave his life for the salvation of men.
This ritual, since ancient times, has commemorated the entry of the Lord into Jerusalem, and it takes on a special significance with the procession that starts at the sanctuary of Bethphage, built by the Franciscans of the Holy Land, on the eastern slope of the Mount of Olives. But the tradition is even more ancient than that, as Fr. Artemio Vitores told us.
Fr. Artemio Vitores, ofm, Custody of the Holy Land,:“The Father Custos and the friars would wear cloaks so that they could pass through. They greeted the Armenians and Copts in the same way. Here the circumstances are always very complicated and this procession was prohibited many times. However, after 1933 it was officially allowed once again and I think that the pilgrimage today is the feast in Jerusalem.”
It is a festival that attracts many. We hear songs in different languages, but there is one common proclamation: Hosanna to the Son of David …
Tiago Rangel Cardoso, Nds, Congregation of the Religious of Our Lady of Sion: “Above all, it is about making an experience present that is not only a part of the past. Making it real not only in memory, but actually reenacting it today.”
“I was lucky to participate in this procession. I never imagined that I would have had this opportunity, or that I would ever be able to take part in something like this. So, I’m very happy to be here and to walk where Jesus walked.” Susi is just one example of the countless pilgrims who, moved by faith or curiosity, are walking on the same path that—according to tradition—Jesus walked on to enter the Holy City. However, because of the news that the media has spread throughout the world related to conflicts and the hardships experienced in of the Middle East, this year’s attendance was very low. This resulted in an increased presence of local Christians, including Christians from the Palestinian territories, who, during the Holy Week, have been allowed to come to Jerusalem, which has has been a reason for joy for the Latin Patriarch.
H.B. Mons. Fouad Twal, Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem: “I was happy to see all of our faithful come by bus, with their pastors, with the nuns that were singing. It is nice that throughout the Middle East—a region that has a reputation of violence, death and war—we still have the courage to sing the Alleluia!” Their singing that was blessed with the relic of the Holy Cross, in the Church of St. Anne within the old city walls: an invitation to the Christians of the Holy Land to continue on their path. “Our resurrection will come with faith and fidelity to the Lord on our part.”
And so began what is also called the Major Week, while awaiting the Sunday of the Resurrection, in communion with the Holy Father, who on Sunday called on the faithful to turn their thoughts to those who are discriminated against for their faithfulness to the Gospel, paying with their own lives, like the persecuted Christians, the martyrs of our time. “There are so many! They do not deny Jesus and they bear insults and outrages with dignity. They follow him in their path. We can speak about a “whole host of witnesses,” said the Pontiff.