DEIR RAFAT – On Sunday October 29, 2017, the Diocese of Jerusalem celebrated the Solemnity of Our Lady Queen of Palestine in the Sanctuary of Deir Rafat.
In the first week of October, the church celebrated Our Lady of the Rosary; and today it celebrates the Solemnity of Our Lady Queen of Palestine, Queen of Heaven and Earth. This celebration falls on the last Sunday of October of every year. This Sunday, the Mass was presided by Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa, Apostolic Administrator of the Latin Patriarchate, and concelebrated by Bishop Giacinto Boulos Marcuzzo, Patriarchal Vicar in Jerusalem and Palestine and Fr. Hanna Kildani, Patriarchal Vicar in Nazareth with the participation of priests, religious men and women, Knights of the Holy Sepulcher, seminarians and the faithful.
In his homily, Fr. Kildani delightfully welcomed the participants in this Holy shrine, and highlighted Virgin Mary’s words to Jesus in the wedding at Cana in Galilee “They have no more wine” (John 2: 1-2) and he asked “what would she say today?” He urged her to “Whisper to him that they have no peace, no hope of the future, and they are desperate for they don’t have an internationally recognized state, don’t have oil nor olives, as it has been looted and plundered.” Also, he called upon the Queen of Heaven and Earth “not to forget her earthly land and children. Many world leaders tried to build bridges but what we saw instead was more walls built.” He finished his homily asking Mary Immaculate to “help us build faith in God, ourselves and others who are similar and different from us, as together we make the nation who are seeking God’s kingdom.”
The solemn Mass was followed by the traditional procession with the statue of Virgin Mary, Our Lady of Palestine. More than 2,000 local and international Christians were present who came at the invitation of the Patriarchate. As their first time in the Holy Land, Mr. Stephan and Ms. Renetta Torres, of the Order of the Holy Sepulcher, felt honored and humbled to come all the way from New Mexico to the Holy Land. They expressed their touching experience in their pilgrimage and in participating in this Mass. “We’ve been so impressed; I have never been so humbled and proud in the same time” said Mr. Stephan. Ms. Torres added that “this whole experience is so moving, it’s unlike anything you could’ve prepared yourself for; to be where Jesus Christ lived and walked with His Blessed Mother. It’s a very emotional trip. I can feel God’s hands with us, being here in this mass with our robes of the Holy Sepulcher: it is a gift.”
As a tradition, many faithful came from different parishes in the Holy Land to participate in the Mass. Ms. Sawsan Shomali, from Beit Sahour, reflected on her pilgrimage to Deir Rafat: “It is a yearly event I look forward to as a Catholic, a Palestinian and a female. Often, due to travel restrictions, the trip is charged with mixed feelings: to cross or not to cross the checkpoint. However, this year was different. The drive was smooth, and the place was bustling with worshippers from all over the world to revere this place and in search of Mary our Lady of Palestine, requesting her intervention for peace in her homeland. The live hymns charged the pilgrims’ minds and hearts and unified them under one umbrella, one church and one mission.”
The shrine of Our Lady of Palestine was built in 1927 at the initiative of His Beatitude the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Louis Barlassina, who instituted the feast of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Queen of Palestine. In 1933, the feast day in Deir Rafat was approved by the Holy See.