JERUSALEM - The Holy Week for the year 2021 has officially started in Jerusalem with the celebrations of Palm Sunday. For the first time as Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, His Beatitude Pierbattista Pizzaballa presided over the morning Palm Sunday Pontifical Mass at the Holy Sepulchre and the afternoon procession from Bethphage on Mount of Olives to Lions' Gate near St. Anne Church in the Old City.
The first day of the Holy Week started at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, firstly with a Palm-waving procession around the Tomb of Christ and then followed by a Pontifical Mass, celebrated for the first time by the tenth Jerusalem Patriarch of the Latins H.B. Pierbattista Pizzaballa. The clergy and seminarians of the Latin Patriarchate and Custody of the Holy Land also participated in the Mass attended by the different Religious Communities and a small number of the faithful.
For the procession from Bethphage to the Old City in the afternoon, the Israeli authorities had previously fixed the number of permitted participants to 300 people. However, the procession yielded approximately 2000 faithful, predominantly Christian foreigners, some of which are migrants, working and living in the country, the Religious men and women serving in the Holy Land and a handful of Jerusalemites.
On the other hand, Palestinian Christians from the West Bank and Gaza could not attend the ceremonies and will not be present for the Passion of the Lord in Jerusalem, as they have not been able to obtain a permit to visit and pray in the Jerusalem Holy Places due to the spread of the COVID-19 in the Holy Land since March of last year.
As for Christian pilgrims, who flock every year in thousands to join in the festivities of this week, they will have to turn to social media to tune in to the broadcast of the celebrations for the second year in a row, as the Ben Gurion Airport remains closed to non-citizens. “Even if they [Christians from all over the world] have not been able to reach us physically,” said Patriarch Pizzaballa in his Palm Sunday message, “today they are praying with us, with their hearts and minds turned to Jerusalem.”
On the way to Old City, Patriarch Pizzaballa stopped at the Dominus Flevit Sanctuary and prayed over Jerusalem and blessed it with the relic of the Cross. “It is part of our Church of Jerusalem’s specific mission to pray for this Holy City and to preserve her vocation to be a house of prayer for all peoples, where all are equally citizens, and where every believer finds his own home in it,” said the Bishop of Jerusalem.
The procession then continued to Lions’ Gate, where His Beatitude addressed the joyous crowd. In his speech, he acknowledged the never-ending divisions that characterize the life of Jerusalem but deemed it necessary to help people bear witness to “faith in Christ’s victory over death.” He said: “For those who have faith, the Cross is not a sign of defeat and death, but of love, life, reconciliation, and forgiveness. For this, we bless the city with the Cross, so that it may be more and more marked by the love of Christ, and become a place of encounter, respect, and mutual acceptance.”
Palm Sunday - Pontifical Mass at the Holy Sepulchre
Palm Sunday - Bethphage
Palm Sunday procession and Pontifical Mass at the Holy Sepulchre Church