Jerusalem (AsiaNews) - " Today, our procession is one of salvation, the Lord himself is our salvation. Jesus, the King of Peace, came to Jerusalem, a city that has never known peace", said Msgr. Fouad Twal, Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem pointing out the significance of Palm Sunday celebrated this year in front of over 35 thousand faithful from all over the world. In his homily, the prelate encouraged all present to pray for the Holy Land so that this feast may represent "the rejection of all violence" and invited everyone to "let the Lord enter our hearts and our lives, to heal our wounds and our divisions, to strengthen us in our weakness and give us the courage to persevere in the midst of trials."
Last year, the Israeli police counted 15,000 people. This year, 35,000 olive branches and woven palms were displayed and raised on the procession from Bethphage through the Mount of Olives to the Old City of Jerusalem, with an imposing security system both in the air and on the ground. Despite the shift of the Easter dates in the Diocese and the number of permits (6,000 this year - only half compared to last year) issued to Palestinians by the Israeli authorities, the crowd was dense. Banners were held high by some parishioners, with the names of the Latin Patriarchate Parishes: Aboud, Ramallah, Jifna, Bethlehem, Beit Jala, Beit Sahour, Nablus.
From the Church of Bethphage (where Jesus mounted the donkey), the faithful began marching in droves and with joy to cries of "Hosanna." The sun shone brightly upon this show of music and color; an international dance of drums, guitars, languages and fervor, with many wearing native Palestinian clothing.
The Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, His Beatitude Fouad Twal walked at the back of the procession with the Franciscans and the Knights of the Holy Sepulchre, alongside some heads of the other Catholic Churches of the Holy Land and the Apostolic Nuncio to Israel, Archbishop Giuseppe Lazzarotto who is also the Apostolic Delegate for the Palestinian Territories.
On Palm Sunday morning, the Patriarch presided over the Procession with Palms and the Pontifical Mass at the Altar of St. Mary Magdalene at the Holy Sepulchre. The previous night, Father Pierbattista Pizzaballa, Custos of the Holy Land, celebrated the Vigil of Palm Sunday in the Chapel of the Apparition and the Holy Mass at Calvary.
This year only the Catholic areas of Bethlehem and Jerusalem celebrate Easter according to the Gregorian calendar. Most of the Catholic communities in Israel, the Palestinian territories, Jordan and Cyprus in fact follow the Julian calendar and begin Holy Week with the Orthodox Christians in the first week of May. The unification of the dates of Easter was announced on 15 October 2012 by the bishops of the Catholic Ordinaries of the Holy Land, where it was established that within two years all the Catholics of the diocese of the Latin Rite and the various Eastern rites will celebrate Easter according to the Julian calendar. (C. L.)