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Peace cries out from Gethsemane

Local Christians, priests and nuns missioned here, pilgrims from abroad… the Basilica of the Nations lived up to its name Saturday night when Christians from all denominations, rites, languages and peoples filled it to make what Pope Francis has called “the cry of peace” sound out from Gethsemane.

In the presence of the Latin Patriarch Fouad Twal, the new Nuncio and Apostolic Delegate, Monsignor Giuseppe Lazzarotto; and representatives from the various Churches, first among which are the Syrians and Copts; Fra Feras Hejazin, pastor of the parish, presided over this evening of prayer.

The atmosphere was particularly recollected as the faithful listened to and made their own the words that the Pope had spoken during the Angelus of September first, when he called for today (September 7) to be a day of fasting and prayer (link to the Pope’s text).

Beside the Olive Grove, facing the mosaics depicting the Agony of Jesus, facing the stone that recalls his anguish, the prayers of the Christians of Jerusalem rose up to the Lord in Arabic, Hebrew, Armenian and Coptic, pleading that he grant our region the gift of peace.

Similar gatherings of prayer were celebrated in many churches and chapels of the Holy Land throughout the day. The Christians of the Holy Land have particularly strong links with Christians throughout the region. Not only because they have a common Arabic-language culture, but also because many families have relatives in one or another of the countries of the region.

The oldest residents of Jerusalem remember vacations spent in Syria, uncles, aunts, cousins or grandparents from there. Until 1967 the local Christian community enjoyed a borderless existence. Jerusalem, after all, is only 219 km from Damascus, 425 km from Cairo, and 237 from Beirut, which itself is only 86 km from Damascus.

The Franciscans of the Custody, very well represented in the assembly, had a special prayer in their hearts for their brothers who are still present in Syria, continuing to do their best to serve the population around them, helping them to live faithfully through the tragedy that has fallen on their country.

The Custody and its NGO are offering another concrete gesture to come in aid to Syria in response to its call for solidarity by having Christian communities bring essential supplies to help meet the most urgent needs.

To know more, please visit the site of the Custody’s NGO, ATS Pro Terra Sancta.

Photo ©Nadim Asfour/CTS

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