A Procession of 35,000 Palms in Jerusalem
JERUSALEM – The faithful of the Holy Land and pilgrims from all over the world came down the Mount of Olives with palm branches in hand on Sunday, March 24, for the traditional Palm Sunday Procession. According to the Israeli police, a crowd of 35,000 people flocked into the Old City to celebrate the triumphant entry of Jesus into Jerusalem.
Last year, the Israeli police counted 15,000 people. This year, 35,000 olive branches and woven palms were displayed and raised on the procession from Bethphage through the Mount of Olives to the Old City of Jerusalem, with an imposing security system both in the air and on the ground. Despite the shift of the Easter dates in the Diocese and the number of permits (6,000 this year – only half compared to last year) issued to Palestinians by the Israeli authorities, the crowd was dense. Banners were held high by some parishioners, with the names of the Latin Patriarchate Parishes: Aboud, Ramallah, Jifna, Bethlehem, Beit Jala, Beit Sahour, Nablus, ….
From the Church of Bethphage (where Jesus mounted the donkey), the faithful began marching in droves and with joy to cries of “Hosanna.” The sun shone brightly upon this show of music and color; an international dance of drums, guitars, languages and fervor, with many wearing native Palestinian clothing. The Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, His Beatitude Fouad Twal walked at the back of the procession with the Franciscans and the Knights of the Holy Sepulchre, alongside some heads of the other Catholic Churches of the Holy Land and the Apostolic Nuncio to Israel, Archbishop Giuseppe Lazzarotto who is also the Apostolic Delegate for the Palestinian Territories.
On Palm Sunday morning, the Patriarch presided over the Procession with Palms and the Pontifical Mass at the Altar of St. Mary Magdalene at the Holy Sepulchre. The previous night, Father Pierbattista Pizzaballa, Custos of the Holy Land, celebrated the Vigil of Palm Sunday in the Chapel of the Apparition and the Holy Mass at Calvary. One part of the Christians of the Holy Land began Holy Week to celebrate Easter in one week, while another part of the diocese just entered the season of Lent, after the Catholic Ordinaries of the Holy Land decided to celebrate the feast of Easter according to the Julian calendar of the Orthodox on May 5, with the exception of Bethlehem and Jerusalem,.
Praying together for the Holy Land
The procession ended as the faithful and pilgrims arrived at the convent of St. Anne (near Lion’s Gate), the Patriarch addressed the crowd and gave his blessing with a few words of encouragement to “joint” prayer for the Holy Land: “Today, our procession is one of salvation, the Lord himself is our salvation. Jesus, the King of Peace, came to Jerusalem, a city that has never known peace.”
Expressing that this procession radiated, with its olive branches as symbols, peace, joy and simplicity, Patriarch Twal stated that he wanted this Christian procession to be understood as a sign of “rejection of all violence.” In conclusion, the Patriarch invited everyone to “let the Lord enter our hearts and our lives, to heal our wounds and our divisions, to strengthen us in our weakness and give us the courage to persevere in the midst of trials.”