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JERUSALEM – On June 28, 2017, The Assumptionists invited the Church of Jerusalem to celebrate First Vespers of the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul in the Sanctuary of St. Peter in Gallicantu.

Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa, Apostolic Administrator of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, presided over First Vespers, which was attended by many religious and faithful including Bishop Gregory Pierre Melki, the Syro-Catholic Patriarchal Exarch of Jerusalem.

Highlights of the celebration were the prayers at the Belvedere, the Holy Stairs, Station of Denial, places that make up the sanctuary of Saint Peter in Gallicantu, commemorating the stages of the Passion of Christ that continue to strengthen our faith today.

The Psalms were chanted alternately by men and women in praising the glory of God.  The Gospel of the June 29 feast day was proclaimed. In this passage, Peter reiterates his Faith in the same way to the three questions of Jesus: “You know that I love you,” and Jesus answers: ”Be the shepherd of my sheep.”

In his homily, Archbishop Pizzaballa invited the faithful present to contemplate the scene and imagine the emotion of Peter during this strong exchange between Jesus and the leader of the disciples. Then the he pointed out what we should see there: a call to faithfulness, a call to be witness of the Love of Christ and not a call to perfection. This mission is that of the Church, which we also know as imperfect: to bear witness God’s love for men.

On the occasion of this feast, Fr. Jean-Daniel Gullung, AA, rector of the sanctuary, invited the assembly to admire the Byzantine mosaic of the grave of Stephanos, senior official of Empress Eudoxia, empress of the East in the 5th century. This mosaic which allegorically represents the soul that escapes from death is one of the most important discoveries of the Byzantine period of this sanctuary.

Cécile Klos

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