HAIFA – The traditional Marian procession of Haifa, popularly known as “Talaat al-Adhrà” (Ascension of the Virgin), took place on Sunday, May 7, 2017. Traditionally held, since 1919, on the 3rd Sunday of Easter, the Latin parish of Saint Joseph and the Carmelite fathers preferred this year, for security reasons and in agreement with the police, to avoid the coincidence of the celebrations of Israel’s Memorial and Independence Days.
Two bishops were present at the procession: Bishop Giacinto-Boulos Marcuzzo, Latin Patriarchal Vicar and representative of the Apostolic Administrator who is traveling in the USA on pastoral engagements, and Bishop Kamal Bathish who attracted the admiration of all those present, after making the entire hike on foot at all of his 86 years. At the Stella Maris sanctuary, Maronite Bishop Moussa Hage joined them, bearing the relic of St. Sharbel, which he left behind permanently. All the parishes, all combined rites, of Haifa and the surroundings were represented by their parish priests and priests. 20,000 people, according to police, from all over Galilee, but also from the Center (Jaffa, Lod and Ramleh), and parishes from areas around Ramallah, Jerusalem and Bethlehem, participated in the procession. “We have noticed”, the organizers say, “a slight but noticeable decrease in the participation of religious men and women, except the Carmelite fathers who, together with the Vicar Superior, Fr. Enrico Castro, and the parish priest, Father Abdo Abdo, edified the faithful by the entirety of their presence and their perfect organization of the procession. Many have noticed the absence of policemen, and yet everything went peacefully.” 9 Scout patrols – 7 from Galilee (Haifa, Shefaamer, Nazareth, Ibillin, Reneh) and 2 from Bethlehem – were there. Everyone appreciated their presence and found them really helpful. They bring an atmosphere of joy and celebration. However, the slowness of some patrols caused a delay of almost 4 hours which could have prevented the smooth ecumenical running of the procession. The presence of the seminarians of Beit Jala and their rector, Canon Jamal Khader, was very much appreciated and very positive. Their typical cassocks provided a external liturgical framework suitable for the procession. In addition, they tirelessly animated the songs and prayers and maintained an atmosphere of meditation. Many of the faithful crowded around the statue of the Virgin, Queen of Mount Carmel. “Order is created spontaneously like children around the mother of a family”, remarked a religious. Each, in turn, was able to pull the cart of the statue, with the help of a group of volunteers. The times of reflection and prayer focused on the maternal protection of the Blessed Virgin, who is the reason behind this procession. This year, on the occasion of the centenary of the Virgin’s apparitions in Fatima (May 13, 1917), the canonization of Francisco and Jacinta Marto, the two visionary children, and the Pope’s visit to Portugal, the central themes centered around conversion, prayer and peace among peoples. Text from our Haifa correspondent.