12/02/2020, 16.02
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Bishop Marcuzzo, on entrance of patriarch amid Covid-19: Small scale but festive celebration

The patriarchal vicar describes a climate of expectation and participation, despite the restrictions imposed by the pandemic. Only 50 people will be present at the Holy Sepulchre. Previously the administrator, now he will be a real pastor. The Holy Land without pilgrims is "a desolation", the hope pilgrimages will start again "after Easter".

Jerusalem (AsiaNews) - "A small scale celebration as much as we can, we will make sure that it is as participatory as possible," says Msgr. Giacinto-Boulos Marcuzzo, auxiliary bishop emeritus of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, speaking to AsiaNews about the preparations for the solemn entry of the new patriarch, scheduled for the weekend.

"The clergy, the communities, the faithful would like to be present - he continues - but we cannot afford it". The Holy Land "is used to ups and downs", but this pandemic without pilgrims or ceremonies "it is a desolation: we hope that after Easter the situation will change".

The new Patriarch of Jerusalem of the Latins Msgr. Pierbattista Pizzaballa, former apostolic administrator, of the vacant see of the same circumscription in the last four years, will make his official entry over the weekend amidst heavy restrictions due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The authorities have issued a series of directives for the celebrations, in accordance with health restrictions, which effectively eliminate attendance and participation. Hence the feverish work of these days at the patriarchate, so that the celebration can go ahead.

We spoke to Msgr. Marcuzzo during a break between the various meetings. "For the entrance to the Holy Sepulchre, in Jerusalem, the police imposed a maximum number of 50 people, including patriarchate officials, the Franciscans, the Custos of the Holy Land and the vicar. Not even the clergy will be able to be present, but there will only be one representative on behalf of the most important communities”.

In order to broaden participation, he continues, "we organized a ceremony on our return at the con-cathedral of the Latin patriarchate, with another Te Deum and a speech by the patriarch ... We would have liked a large crowd, but we must abide by the rules".

"Msgr. Pizzaballa is living these days in a quiet, serene way, immersed in work "says the auxiliary emeritus. "His agenda the first few weeks is full of ecclesiastical and pastoral commitments: on December 24, the eve, the entrance to Bethlehem, Palestine, at the Basilica of the Nativity. For the epiphany, January 6, in Nazareth here the following weekend in Jordan, for the entrance to the baptismal font on the Jordan River. He will spend two weeks in the Hashemite kingdom, then he will enter Cyprus in the second half of January, and finally some commitments scheduled in Europe ".

In the first months, the patriarch “will try to outline priorities, and then draw up a program for action. These first four years - explains the patriarchal vicar - have been of a financial nature, as an administrator, now as a patriarch he will also have a pastoral profile. The community is very united, committed and active. Even the feasts and anniversaries scheduled for the next few days, from St. Catherine of Alexandria to Bethlehem to St. Nicholas, everything depends on the work that Patriarch Pizzaballa will be called upon to do”.

The Christian community is therefore preparing to welcome the new patriarch, even in a moment of great suffering and concern. The new coronavirus pandemic, while not interrupting the activities, has eliminated the presence of pilgrims, a source of great vitality for the local Church and a fundamental contribution to the economy of Christians, 30% of whom live on the earnings generated by the presence of faithful from all over the world.

“The Holy Land without pilgrims - confesses Msgr. Marcuzzo - is a desolation. Starting with the Bethlehem grotto, which before was always packed with thousands of people and is now empty. Fortunately, there remains a small presence of Franciscans and local faithful, who animate the holy places a little ".

Even in a context of crisis, he adds, "some have taken the opportunity to fix some monuments or buildings, such as the citadel of David: when the pilgrims return, they will be able to admire a new museum, with the history of the Bible, of the Holy Land completely modernised”.

"The Holy Land is used to these ups and downs, but before it was a question of wars, violence linked to the intifada, but such a complete and general closure had never occurred. Even during the darkest phases, at the time of the second intifada, some pilgrims could be seen coming from Galilee to Judea, or from Jordan, and then there were functions and ceremonies at a local level”.

Msgr. Marcuzzo concludes “Our hope, if all goes well, is to be able to welcome pilgrims again after Easter. We are not resigned, the holy places they remain and are eternal ... and the pilgrims will return and there will be many”.

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Msgr. Pizzaballa: At Christmas the faithful of Asia and Russia revive pilgrimages to the Holy Land
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