The last time it happened was in 2014, and the next time will be in 2025. This year, 2017, in the calculation for determining the dates for Easter in the Julian and the Gregorian calendars, the date coincides for both.
Today, Christians of various denominations celebrate Palm Sunday. This was a moment of great joy for unity that brought about some chaos to the Holy Sepulcher, during the celebration of Holy Mass presided over by the Apostolic Administrator Mons. Pizzaballa.
The procession around the Edicule took place with barely any obstacles, and the crowd present at the mass at the Altar of the Apparition to Mary Magdalene, was sustained by a solid faith as they attended the celebration. The reading of the Passion has been done several times through song, bells and the noise of the Kawas’ sticks.
Most of those present followed the prayer book, while those who did not have them meditated or simply rejoiced about being in Jerusalem.
The Ministry of Tourism has estimated that 180,000 Jewish and Christian pilgrims will visit during this Passover week, a crowd that will no doubt liven up the streets of the Old City.
On the afternoon of April 9 at 2:30 p.m. under a sky that was darkened by a few clouds, a festive crowd took part in the traditional procession that traces Jesus’ journey to enter Jerusalem. The hope, joy and living faith can even be breathed in the air. After reading, the passage of Sunday’s Gospel, the great procession departed and descended to the Mount of Olives. Everyone celebrated the joy of the feast together: Pilgrims from all over the world, groups of local Arab parishes, Hebrew-speaking Catholics, and faithful from the church for foreigners. On the streets along the Mount of Olives, facing a breathtaking view of Jerusalem, the instruments, the singing, the voices of young people and the elderly filled the Holy City with an example of what brotherhood means under the same faith.
Stephane and Evry are two young men from Paris who came to Jerusalem with a group of 250 people for a ten-day pilgrimage. Like them, other groups filled the procession with joy: Egyptians, Poles, Italians, Filipinos, South Africans, Congolese. Fr. Apollinaire has been working with the Hebrew-speaking Catholic community, who consisted of about thirty people in the procession. “Today is Sunday and many were unable to come because they were working,” said the priest. One of them is Lexy, a young man who came to Jerusalem to study music from a kibbutz in southern Israel. “I hope this procession can bring peace to the people of the Holy Land and to all of its leaders,” said Fr. James, who was accompanying a group of Filipinos. Liliana is from Slovenia: “In my church we do not have a street procession and that is why I really enjoy being here.”
“I hope that this Easter we can hear Jesus as alive among us,” said a young Danish woman who sings in the midst of a group of young blond. In procession with the other brothers, Fr. Carlos, a Franciscan of the Custody of the Holy Land and a native of Mexico, said “We are in the place where Jesus walked; we are coming from all over the world.” Sitting outside a house on the slopes of the Mount of Olives, some Arab women cheered joyfully as the faithful passed by. “My daughter lives here but I live in Switzerland,” said one woman. “If I had no knee pain, I would be walking with them, because I came here just for the procession. We want to show our faith and we want peace.”
Since 1971, Fr. Matteo, a priest from Rome, has been doing missionary work in many parts of the world: “Yesterday I celebrated 45 years of priesthood and being here today means contemplating God’s love in my life and for the whole world.” Guilherme Mendes, a Brazilian seminarian who is spending a year in the Redemptoris Mater Domus Galileae, has experienced the same joy: “God became incarnate not only two thousand years ago, but also today. And this is a walk toward Jerusalem, the city of the great king, the city that is the place where Jesus’ story was fulfilled, as was my story.” As the sun set, the procession went down the Mount of Olives as participants waved palm and olive tree branches and sang “Hosanna,” all the way to St. Anne’s Church.
There, the Apostolic Administrator, Mons. Pizzaballa, asked everyone to observe a minute of silence for the Christians murdered in the Palm Sunday morning service. “Today we had a church good experience,” he said, speaking about the procession. “We walked together and sang; we rejoiced and some people even danced together, even without knowing each other and without having a common language. We had a good church experience because we felt united, all together, in joy of belonging to Christ.”
Marie-Armelle Beaulieu – Beatrice Guarrera