Jerusalem Procession

JERUSALEM (CNS) — Christian pilgrims from around the globe waved palm fronds, banners and flags and sang in their native languages as they joined local Christians in the traditional Palm Sunday procession in Jerusalem.

The procession slowly wound its way down from the Mount of Olives and into the Old City March 28.

Christians from Germany, Puerto Rico, Italy, Sweden, and India as well as local Muslim residents lined the streets taking pictures, then joined the procession.

Christians from the West Bank had to apply to the Israeli Civil Administration for special travel permits to enter Jerusalem.

“It is not pleasant,” said Osama Saleh, 50, a Catholic who traveled for three hours from the West Bank village of Zababdeh with his wife, Fadwah, 47, and their three children.

“It took us a long time because we had to go through checkpoints,” he said, “but we come here every year. We want to pray in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. When I was small I came with my father, and now I come with my children.”

He said he would pray for peace and open borders.

Retired Bishop Fremiot Torres Oliver of Ponce, Puerto Rico, said he had led a group of pilgrims to the Holy Land for Holy Week to “unite spiritually to the moment in which our Lord decided to enter Jerusalem as a … poor and humble king.”

“Jesus Christ came to this world and God in him so that man can see God,” said the bishop. “This is a good time to remember that and to remember that the cross is an indispensable element of the way to salvation and eternal life.”

The presence of so many Christians from all over at the world at the procession served to reaffirm the universality of the church, for all peoples at all times, said Dafne Morel, 56, of St. Charles Borromeo Parish in Aguadilla, Puerto Rico.

“It is such an impact to see so many Christian brothers from all over the world who share the same mission and values meeting here,” added her companion, Waldemar Ramirez, 59, of Good Shepherd Parish in Mayaguez, Puerto Rico.

Part of the tiny Christian minority in Israel, Nadeen Munair, 18, a Catholic from the Israeli city of Lod, said the procession was a chance to experience a sense of community with other Christians.

“We have to feel like it was before … to feel all together,” she said. “Here, I don’t feel so alone.”

Israeli-Palestinian tensions have continued in recent weeks over planned new Jewish settlements in East Jerusalem, property confiscation and the continued separation wall construction. Chris Armstrong, 58, a Mormon from West Union, Ohio, said she had spent time with Jewish and Palestinian friends and she could see “the tragedy of both sides of the conflict.”

“I am praying for softened hearts and forgiveness,” she said. “Everyone has cause to forgive the other side. Peace will only come when that happens.”

After the traditional Palm Sunday procession in Bethlehem, West Bank, 11 Palestinian protesters were arrested after taking part in a nonviolent demonstration against the need for travel permits to reach Jerusalem.

About 150 protesters were able to peacefully walk past soldiers through the Bethlehem checkpoint until they were stopped by police and Israeli soldiers who, according to organizers, used force to stop the march and round up approximately 50 people. Most were released later.

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