JERUSALEM - As the Holy Land is preparing to celebrate an Easter free of health restrictions, Knights and Dames of the Order of the Holy Sepulchre came to the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem to receive their pilgrim shells from the hands of the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Mgr Pierbattista Pizzaballa.
They are the first members of the Eastern Lieutenancy of the United States to come back to the Holy Land since the COVID-19 pandemic. To receive them at the Latin Patriarchate was therefore a moment full of joy and emotion for everyone. "It is such a wonderful experience, not only to attend the celebrations and to visit the holy sites, but also to finally meet again the living stones of this land," said Lady Vicki Downey, head of the Lieutenancy.
After a solemn entry into the co-cathedral, during which they sang "Immaculate Mary", the group, composed of both American pilgrims and Knights and Dames, including H.E. Mgr Edward B. Scharfenberger, Bishop of Albany, was received into the great hall of the Patriarchate by Mgr Pizzaballa as well as by Fr. Bernard Poggi, rector of the Beit Jala seminary, and his seminarians. The latter share special bonds with the Lieutenancy, as, during their priestly formation, they are sent one year to the United States for language and cultural exchange.
After discussing the situation of the local Christians, Mgr Pizzaballa awarded some of them with the pilgrim shell and certificate testifying of their coming to the Holy Land, before concluding the meeting and ceremony with a prayer.