2011
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Chilean Independence Day in Jerusalem: close to a distant country

Jerusalem, Church of St. Saviour, 17th September 2011

A Holy Mass was celebrated this morning, 17th September at the parish church of St. Saviour in Jerusalem on Chile’s Day of Independence. This is an important appointment, which is repeated every year and, in the minds of all those present recalled the great celebration held only last year for the bicentenary of the birth of the Chilean Republic.

The solemn celebration was presided by Brother Sergio Olmedo Flores, a Franciscan father of the Custody of the Holy Land and spiritual assistant to the Chilean community in Israel. The celebration was attended by diplomatic, civilian and military figures, from Chile as well as other Latin American countries, including the Chilean Ambassadors to Israel, Mr. Joaquin Montes Larrain, and to the Palestinian National Authority, Mr. Jorge Ossa Arangua, with their respective wives. The members of the community also included two young Chileans wearing the brightly coloured and elegant traditional costumes of their country.

The most solemn moments of the liturgy were accompanied by the beautiful performances at the organ by Brother Armando Pierucci, Director of the Magnificat Institute, the music school of the Custody of the Holy Land, and by the English flautist, Stella Turner.

In his homily, Brother Sergio also reflected on St. Francis of Assisi who, on 17th September 1224, received the gift of the stigmata on the holy mountain of Verna. St. Francis, in his great humility that took him to the most sublime summits of nearness and resemblance to Christ, was able to discard himself completely, to take on only the Lord and bear in his flesh the very marks of His passion, as the ultimate seal of his belonging to Him.

Particularly moving was the remembrance of the victims of the plane crash in Chile at the beginning of September when a plane of the Chilean Air Force, with on board 21 people and which was carrying aid for reconstruction in the Juan Fernandez archipelago, crashed into the Pacific off the coast. The victims of this tragedy included the young Felipe Cutillos, nephew of the wife of the Chilean Ambassador to the Palestinian Territories. This grief touched the community in Israel very closely and gave the celebrations of today a note of great bitterness.

At the end of the celebration, the authorities and the participants gathered in the Curia of the Custody to exchange good wishes and for a simple convivial moment.

We add out warm wishes for the day that commemorates the independence of this distant country, but which is deeply united to the Holy Land thanks to its strong Christian faith and thanks to the lively community which lives here and which, for a few years, has found a precious place where they can meet and pray, the Sanctuary of St. John in the Desert, near Ain Karem, of which Brother Sergio Olmedo is the guardian. We join in their recent grief and perhaps remembering and praying here, in these Holy Places can perhaps help relieve this sorrow.

By Caterina Foppa Pedretti
Photos by Marco Gavasso

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