On Saturday March 19, the Franciscans gathered at the Bethphage shrine to commemorate Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. The solemn feasts are traditionally celebrated on the same day in the sanctuaries, but it is different for the friars since they need to be at the Holy Sepulcher for Palm Sunday mass on Sunday morning. Thus, the pilgrimage actually takes place at Bethphage on Saturday morning.
The mass was presided over in Bethpage by the Custos, Fr.Pierbattista Pizzaballa, Bethphage. Franciscans, parishioners and pilgrims gathered in the the small church. Br. Artemio Vittores, who said the homily, emphasized that, just like in the Gospel, we must also welcome and praise Christ in our daily lives. How? By being true disciples and by loving and serving our brothers and sisters, by welcoming them and by journeying with them, without forgetting to practice forgiveness and mercy.
After the celebration, the Custos blessed the new parish hall that was then used for the first time for everyone to have a snack together. Named “the little donkey,” it was financed by numerous pilgrims and donors from Latin America, Italy, Spain, etc. The project was led by the guardian of the shrine, Br. Agustín Pelayo. It will allow the 68 families living in the Saint Francis residence to have a place to come together. “This is a very good thing,” said Tarik, one of the residents, while he helped out among the friars. “There is nothing around the residence. So, we have no place to gather. In this room, we can organize activities for children, and women will be able to meet here… This gives us a place to prepare for the Palm Sunday procession as well! I’m really happy, this will change a lot of things [for us]. “