On the morning of Sunday, May 29, the commemoration of the Italian National Holiday took place at the Saint Savior’s Monastery in Jerusalem. The mass was presided over by the Custodial Vicar, Fr. Dobromir Jasztal and it was concelebrated by many Italian priests.
The Consul General of Italy in Jerusalem, H.E. Davide Cecilia, accompanied by a delegation from the consulate, attended the ceremony. Among the faithful present, there were some Italian religious, who work with the Custody, as well as pilgrims (including many Italians) visiting the Holy Land.
In his opening speech, the Custodial Vicar highlighted the special relationship between Italy and the Custody of the Holy Land, and thanked the Lord on behalf of the Custody for centuries of Italian support.
The homily was given by Fr. Claudio Bottini, a professor at the Monastery of the Flagellation. He recalled the importance of Christ’s universal message, addressed to all nations. The Gospel of the day (Matthew 8: 5-13) spoke about a centurion in Capernaum. Before his humility and faith, Jesus exclaimed “Amen, I say to you, in no one in Israel have I found such faith. I say to you, many will come from the east and the west, and will recline with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob at the banquet in the kingdom of heaven…” Fr. Bottini added that faith was not only the belief in miracles, but above all the belief in the divine person of Jesus.
The mass ended, and the Italian national anthem was played on the church organ. Then the assembly moved to the parish hall for refreshments. When questioned, the Italian consul brought to light the “intense” relationship between the Custody and the Italian Republic. He stressed that at present cooperation is manifested through two operations: the restoration of the Basilica of the Nativity in Bethlehem and the Terra Sancta Museum project, part of which is already open to the public.
On another note, he confided: “We are sorry to see Fr. Pizzaballa go.” He announced that he would be present, as is customary, to welcome the new Custos, Fr. Francesco Patton, at the Jaffa Gate, on June 6 for his solemn entry into Jerusalem’s Old City.
In the afternoon, the monstery church was also influenced by anther aspect of its mission: that of being a parish church for Arab-speaking Christians. The crowd was there for the weekend’s last Sunday mass. The Eucharistic celebration was presided over by Mons. William Shomali, the Auxiliary Bishop of Jerusalem, and was to be followed by the traditional procession that brought the month of Mary to a close.
This year was the first time that this ceremony took place on a Sunday rather than the last day of my May. This can perhaps explain why in Saint Savior’s decorated courtyard there were fewer faithful than usual waiting to follow the procession. But the people’s fervor was still palpable. Songs to the Virgin Mary were broadcast through loudspeakers and the three stations were emphasized.
Once the sun set, a cool wind rushed through the streets of the Old City and the crowd quickly dispersed after the final blessing.» custodia.org