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JERUSALEM – On Sunday, April 9, 2017, thousands of faithful attended the traditional Palm Sunday procession, from the Church of Bethphage to the Church of St. Anne in the holy city.  It was a day of celebration  which closed  with a speech by Archbishop Pizzaballa calling for joy and hope.

This Palm Sunday celebration started with the first procession at 7:00 a.m. led by the Apostolic Administrator Archbishop  Pierbattista Pizzaballa in the Basilica of the Holy Sepulcher, followed by a Pontifical Mass. The faithful processed  around the Tomb of Christ, just inaugurated two weeks ago.

Early in the afternoon, the traditional procession began in Bethphage, in the presence of the Apostolic Administrator; Archbishop Giuseppe Lazzarotto, Apostolic Nuncio in Israel and Apostolic Delegate in Jerusalem and Palestine;  Bishop Giacinto-Boulos Marcuzzo, Patriarchal Vicar for Israel; Fr. Francesco Patton, OFM, Custos of the Holy Land; and the Consul General of France, Mr. Pierre Cochard. They were preceded by all the seminarians and priests.  After the blessing of the palms and olive branches, thousands of local faithful and pilgrims of all nationalities walked the path that Christ himself traveled 2,000 years ago. Waving their palms and branches, the crowd expressed jubilation in numerous languages, dancing and singing throughout the procession.

This long procession towards the Old City of Jerusalem through the Lion’s Gate ended with an exhortation by Archbishop Pizzaballa in the grounds of St. Anne’s Church, held by the Missionaries of Africa (White Fathers). It was a speech of joy and hope and a call for peace in these troubled times. “In this city, where divisions, hatred and mistrust always seem to prevail, we are called to say who we are and to whom we belong. Today we announce that we are strong and that together we will achieve victory. We have only Christ and His love. And no one can separate us from that love to which we belong (cf. Rom 8:35). Today, together, we feel even stronger, because we took a good bath of Christian joy, this joy we needed to regain strength on our way.”  The Archbishop also urged the faithful to follow Christ radically, recalling the importance of the cross in the life of every Christian. ” But woe to us if we confined ourselves only to following His geographic path and neglected to follow Him in His life and with our life… Following Him on the cross means to love with His standard, that is, to the end. ”

Strong words which resonated in a very special way in the hearts of the faithful, in light of the tragic news of Sunday, April 9.  As a sign of a prayerful union with the Coptic Church, the Apostolic Administrator asked the crowd for a time of silence.  Inspired by the address, the pilgrims left with a strengthened heart, ready to live this Holy Week. The day ended in this same jubilation with the traditional Scout parade across the city, from the Lion’s Gate to the New Gate

Claire Guigou

Photos : © Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem

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