GETHSEMANE – On the occasion of the end of the Jubilee of Mercy, the Holy Door of the Basilica of Gethsemane in Jerusalem was closed on Saturday December 3, 2016 at the end of a solemn Mass celebrated by Bishop Shomali of Jerusalem, and concelebrated by Bishop Lazzarotto, Apostolic Nunce in Israel. A retrospective on a year spiritually strong and rich in initiatives.

On Sunday April 12, 2015, Pope Francis declared a Jubilee of Mercy in the year 2015-2016. This jubilee began on December 8, 2015, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, and, at a Mass celebrated five days later, the Holy Door of the Basilica of Gethsemane was opened. Archbishop Fouad Twal, Latin Patriarch, announced in his homily, the will of the Church is to be a Church of Mercy, inviting the faithful to make this year an opportunity for conversion and prayers for “more mercy, more justice, more peace in this Holy Land, torn by violence”.

The Assembly of Catholic Ordinaries throughout this year invited the faithful to participate in the opening or entrance through the various Doors of Mercy in the Holy Land, to visit the holy places as a sign of penitence for sins against peace, justice and reconciliation in the Middle East, and above all, and not to forget the exercise of corporal and spiritual works of Mercy, such as prayer and communion in the faith, where the gift of a little of one’s time for elderly people, the sick, the disabled and also the refugees.

“Works of Mercy” in the Holy Land

During this year of Mercy, many initiatives were undertaken in this direction. In Jordan, for example, the Church in Amman, cooperating with Caritas Jordan, opened the “Restaurant of Mercy” to serve, free of charge, hot meals to the poor and the needy. Since 2014, Iraqi refugees have constantly flowed into Jordan. The Latin Patriarchate has participated greatly in their integration by opening the doors of its parishes, centers and schools, welcoming more than 200 Christian families enabling them to rebuild their lives, and so give them prospects for the future. Pope Francis himself expressed his solidarity towards these families by offering them a “Garden of Mercy”. A sustainable farm producing various foodstuffs to provide employment for some refugees. This Jubilee was also the occasion for Pope Francis to send more than a thousand Missionaries of Mercy throughout the world, paying particular attention to the celebration of the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Evenings of teachings and prayers came into being and gave concrete answers to the Holy Father’s request that the commissioned Missionaries were to be “convincing preachers of Mercy”.

In the Holy Land, an interfaith conference entitled “Mercy without Borders: celebrating the Mercy of God in Judaism, Christianity and Islam” brought together in a formal conference the Islamic leader Qadi Iyad Zahalka, a judge in The Sharia Court of Jerusalem, Rabbi David Rosen, and Bishop Shomali, Patriarchal Vicar in Jerusalem, the principal initiator of the conference.

This Jubilee of Mercy ended in Jerusalem on Saturday, December 3 with a solemn Mass in the Basilica of Gethsemane where many faithful gathered. Following the opening of the Holy Door, the faithful followed the Cross of Christ in a procession around the shrine, before gathering at the Holy Door and witnessing its closure.

Vivien Laguette

Photos : © Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, Vivien Laguette

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