2017
custodia.org

At the cemeteries on Mount Zion for the Day of the Holy Departed

Every November 2, the friars of the Custody of the Holy Land commemorate all of the deceased with a special procession. And so, this year they respected the tradition by beginning the solemnity celebration with a mass at the Church of St. Savior in Jerusalem. The church was crowded with Jerusalemites, men and women religious from the nearby communities and children of the Terra Santa School.

Presiding over the liturgy in Arabic was Fr. Nerwan, the pastor of the Church of St. Savior, who also said the homily. “Many are asked from whom we have learned to pray for the dead,” said the pastor. He provided some examples from the Bible. The first was the episode of Lazarus, who had been dead inside the tomb for four days. Jesus first prayed and then performed the miracle of resurrecting him. Also, in the Acts of the Apostles, in Chapter 9, Peter resurrected a young girl, but only after having prayed. “For this reason, it is from Christ and from the early church that we have adopted the custom of praying for the dead,” explained Fr. Nerwan. “We have the hope that those who believe in Jesus Christ will have eternal life. According to the spirit of the Gospel, then we are carrying on what Jesus did.”

Departing from the Church of St. Savior, at the end of the Mass, the friars of the Custody of the Holy Land began their procession toward Mount Zion. At the tail end of the friars’ procession was the Custos of the Holy Land, Fr. Francesco Patton, and in front of him were various Franciscans coming from all over the world, as is typical of the Custody’s brotherhoods. Passing through the streets of Jerusalem’s Old City, the prayers, recited and sung in Latin and Arabic over the microphone, attracted the curiosity of many vendors and tourists, as well as that of Muslim, Jewish and Christian citizens of various rites.
“The procession is a witness for Muslims and Jews. They always ask us where we go and what we do and we have the opportunity to explain [to them] that for us prayer for the dead is very important, just as it is for them, ” Fr. Nerwan explained.

The procession stopped at the Catholic cemeteries on Mount Zion [for the faithful] to pay homage to the dead with prayers and a flower in their hands. First and foremost, they made a tribute to the deceased friars of the Custody, who died in the Holy Land. Then, the procession went to the cemetery for all of the faithful, and many parishioners wanted to honor their loved ones with a Hail Mary or a personal remembrance.
“I come here every week, but today is a special day,” said Huda, a Christian from Jerusalem. Like her, Mr. Adib brought flowers for his deceased relatives buried in the Catholic cemetery.
The friars of the Custody of the Holy Land blessed all of the tombstones, sprinkling them with holy water. The procession of friars and faithful, which had already broken up, was gathered around the tombs, including that of the well known German businessman Oskar Schindler, who saved hundreds of Jews during World War II.
“We are in the Holy Land on Mount Zion, which is very significant in Sacred Scripture,” said Fr. Nerwan. “As residents of Jerusalem, we are lucky to be able to bury our dead here.”

Beatrice Guarrera

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