04/18/2011, 00.00
ISRAEL - PALESTINE

Holy Week, Israeli and Palestinian border restrictions impedes pilgrims

In the procession on Palm Sunday, about 10 thousand pilgrims less than in previous years. Many Christian Palestinians stranded at the border with Israel. The vice-chancellor of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem emphasizes the atmosphere of joy and devotion of the pilgrims, despite difficulties.

Jerusalem (AsiaNews) - In the Holy Land the influx of pilgrims is down because of the climate of tensions and tightened controls at checkpoints between Palestinian Territories and the State of Israel. Yesterday, around 10 thousand faithful attended the Palm Sunday procession, led by Msgr. Fouad Twal, Latin patriarch of Jerusalem. The number is down from an average of 20 thousand pilgrims who annually travel the path from the Palestinian village of Betfage to the Old City of Jerusalem. Fr. Marcello Gallardo, vice-chancellor of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, told AsiaNews that "many Christians in Bethlehem and Ramallah did not participate in the procession, due to the few permits issued by the Israeli authorities, on the occasion of Holy Week."

"Despite the difficulties - he adds – there are still many pilgrims and in the coming days many more will flock the holy places of Christ's Passion." The priest said the climate that reigns among the faithful is one of joy and people observe the Easter period with great fervour and devotion. "

Fr. Athanasius Macora OFM, former director of the Christian Information Center (CIC), says that compared to previous years the holy places are less crowded. According to Cic some foreigners have cancelled their reservations because of the tense situation in the Middle East.

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