Jerusalem (AsiaNews) – Palestinian Christians are facing a series of problems this Holy Week. They are being forced to go through a series of procedures to get to Jerusalem from Gaza and the West Bank. The Israeli government decided yesterday to close the border with the West Bank for 9 days and is only allowing access for humanitarian reasons or to Christians who have permission to celebrate Easter in Jerusalem. It is almost impossible for Christians in Gaza were to obtain permission. Because of the presence of many Jewish pilgrims and for fear of possible attacks, the entrance to the Temple Mount is still forbidden to men younger under 50.
This year, Catholics, Orthodox and Protestants will celebrate Easter on the same dates. According to figures provided by the airport authorities, this year there is an increase of 19% of travellers to and from Israel.
The Council of Arab Orthodox have invited all Christians to come to Jerusalem despite the prohibitions and restrictions of the occupying power. It has asked all the heads of Churches in Jerusalem to "uphold the rights and aspirations of their communities and to oppose Israel's discriminatory policy towards freedom of worship."
Yesterday, meanwhile, the Catholic community of Jerusalem celebrated the start of Holy Week with Palm Sunday procession from the Mount of Olives to the Old City. The parade, consisting of at least 2000 people, including local and international pilgrims, was led by Latin Patriarch, Mgr. Fouda Twal and the Franciscan Custos of the Holy Land, Fr. Giovanni Battista Pizzaballa.
Before the blessing, the patriarch said that Jesus entered the Holy City in the same way as the assembly "without armed escort, without soldiers and without walls of separation," referring to the tense situation in this city and the wall that rises on the border between the State of Israel and the Occupied Territories. "May the Passion of Christ save us from our passions," said Msgr. Twal.
Yesterday, in St Peter's Square, the Angelus, Benedict XVI expressed his concern about the situation in Jerusalem: "At this time - he said - our thoughts and our hearts are directed especially to Jerusalem, where the Pascal mystery took place. I am deeply saddened by the recent conflicts and tensions that have once again occurred in this city, which is spiritual home to Christians, Jews and Muslims, a prophecy and promise of that universal reconciliation that God wants for the whole human family. Peace is a gift that God entrusts to human responsibility, to cultivate it through dialogue and respect for the rights of all, reconciliation and forgiveness. I pray, therefore, that those responsible for the fate of Jerusalem engage with courage on the path to peace and follow it with perseverance. " Image: Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem