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2014
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Indian Community of Jerusalem Joyfully Celebrates the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Saturday, 13 September. The Catholic Indian community of Jerusalem had a large turnout to celebrate the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Although the feast day is on September 8th according to the liturgical calendar, the Indians of Jerusalem have to celebrate it on the Saturday following the eighth, as Saturday is their only day off for this small but growing community.

There has been an Indian community in Jerusalem for a decade, working faithfully at thankless jobs, and they are required to follow the rhythm of the Israeli workweek. No day of rest on Sunday, but a true Sabbath on Saturday.

As they do every year, the Marian feast began at Damascus Gate with the blessing of a statue of the Blessed Virgin, decorated with flowers for the occasion. The many pilgrims then set out in procession behind the statue, singing traditional Indian hymns. Upon arrival at Saint Saviour Church, they took part in the ceremonial distribution of candles, given by the priest to people who are particularly engaged in the life of the community. “It is a tradition in my country,” says Fr. Tojy Jose ofm, the community’s chaplain, who presided over the day.

The large congregation then got ready for mass, celebrated with particular solemnity. Saint Saviour Church was filled; many of pilgrims had to remain standing. The joyous congregation celebrated the Blessed Virgin amidst the strange combination of traditional Indian clothing and the typically Latin architecture of the church.

At the end of the mass, the priests blessed the harvest, in accordance with Mangalorean tradition (from the diocese of Mangalore in the southwest of India). This community is characterized by mostly working outside of India. After mass, everyone shared light refreshment. In the afternoon, a similar procession took place in the streets of Jaffa.

The Indian Catholic community of Jerusalem, numbering some 4000 souls, is ready now to start a new year under the gaze of Our Lady.

Another celebration took place on the same day in the Sanctuary of Saint Peter of Jaffa. Its proximity to Tel Aviv allows it, along with Saint Anthony, the parish church, to welcome the region’s migrant workers.

N.K.

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