Final preparations speed up before the Pope’s visit

For the last several months, the Church of the Holy Land has been getting ready to welcome the Holy Father. Working alongside, the Custody of the Holy Land has been very involved on several levels.

After several meetings held in a muted a secretive atmosphere, after several field visits, it is time to clean and polish everything up.

Everywhere the Pope will go – and even where he won’t – the yellow and white banners of the Holy See are being hoisted. Some of the buildings have unfolded huge posters that warmly welcome the Pope in the Holy Land. The Custody incidentally found itself at the heart of a media controversy ten days ago because of a poster that had been spread out on the Christian Information Center’s façade, near Jaffa Gate. Fortunately, it was allowed to remain, and several Vatican flags now also ornate the terrace.

The masters of ceremony fly from one place to another attending the last rehearsals with the friars who will carry out the services. The Custos as the guardian of the Basilica of the Nativity Fra. Ricardo Bustos who is also Argentinean and a friend of the Pope; with the parish priest of Bethlehem, Fra. Nerwan; with the parish priest of Jerusalem, Fra. Firas, whose parishioners have written to the Pope; and with the superior of Gethsemane’s convent… All are snowed under with interviews from medias from around the world.

In the courtyard of Saint Savior’s Convent, Brother Sergey, who is in charge of the Technical Office, has taken off his Franciscan habit. Surrounded with the Custody’s workers and armed with a high-pressure water hose, together they clean some 550 chairs that will be used for the ceremonies in the Holy Sepulcher and in the Cenacle. “These chairs will be transported today, Friday, for the mass on Sunday evening,” he explains. “ We also need to cover up all the barriers put up by the Israeli police with kilometers of white fabric in order to recreate the holy and religious atmosphere of the city,” he adds.

Farther away, other workers, brooms and paintbrushes in hands, are busy in the room of the Immaculate. There, hundreds of guests invited for the ceremony in the Holy Sepulcher will gather.

Up on the roof, Brothers Amar and Jad are setting up more than a hundred flags and banners on the roof and steeple of Saint Saviour’s Convent. The Custody’s choir rehearses up to the last minute the songs that will accompany the ceremony at the Holy Sepulcher. The twenty-eight singers, both Palestinians and internationals, and conducted by Hania Soudah-Sabbara will have the honor of singing for the Holy Father.

In the laundry, the hardest part of the preparations is over. In cooperation with the Patriarchate, it was in charge of getting all the liturgical garments ready as well as, on the Custody’s order, the wall coverings that will ornate the Cenacle.

The work is still not over and the Custody has rallied all its forces in order to welcome the Holy Father in the Holy Land, as he ought to be.

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