Patriarch to His People: ‘We Are Not Alone, We Are Not Abandoned, We Are Not Afraid!’

On Palm Sunday, more than 500 Christians sheltering at Holy Family Parish in Gaza City celebrated the feast day with a Mass and procession, despite the suffering and ongoing war between Israel and Hamas.

JERUSALEM — On 24 March, Cardinal Pierbattista Pizzaballa, Latin patriarch of Jerusalem, presided over the Palm Sunday celebrations, with the participation of Bishop William Shomali, vicar general, Father Francesco Patton, O.F.M., custos of the Holy Land, clergy and faithful.

The celebrations began at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, where Cardinal Pizzaballa blessed the palm and olive branches and led a procession around the tomb, remembering Christ’s royal entry into Jerusalem before the beginning of Holy Week, while the Gospel of the Passion according to the Evangelist Mark was read.

A priest celebrates Palm Sunday at Holy Family Church, 25 March, in Gaza City. More than 500 Christians shelter in the parish amid the ongoing Israel-Hamas war. (photo: courtesy Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem)

At noon, the faithful gathered at Bethphage Monastery to start the traditional procession to the Monastery of St. Anne. Although small in number compared with previous years, many people from Jerusalem and Galilee, different monastic orders and a few pilgrims came to show solidarity and pray with the people of the Holy City.

Lucy Al Rai from Jerusalem expressed the importance of participating in this annual tradition despite the tensions in the region.

“I don’t let anything hinder me from participating in the holy march,” she said. “It is a great blessing for us. We are the living stones in the Holy Land. As a Palestinian Christian, it is my existential and religious duty to participate in this day when the eyes of the world are on Jerusalem.”

Toward the end of the procession, Cardinal Pizzaballa addressed the participants, expressing his dismay that many parishioners and pilgrims were unable to participate due to the prevailing conditions.

“We have joined voices with those who sang in Jerusalem 2,000 years ago: ‘Hosanna Filio David,’ Hosanna to the Son of David. Yes, especially now, it is even more important and necessary to shout strongly that Jesus is our Messiah, he is our Lord, he is the Kyrios. 

“It may be that in these past months, we have felt lost or alone and without reference points. We have felt crushed by so much hatred. This war, which is so terrible and seems never-ending, sometimes leads us to fear for the future of our families,” he continued. 

“Yet today we are here again, even if few in number, without pilgrims and without so many of our brothers and sisters from so many parts of our diocese, who could not join us. It does not discourage us! Few or many, it is important to be here, and to shout with strength and faith that we have a point of reference, Jesus Christ. We are not alone, we are not abandoned, and above all, we are not afraid!”

Altar servers process outside Holy Family Church in Gaza City during Palm Sunday Mass, 25 March. (photo: courtesy Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem)

Then, the cardinal recited the closing prayer and blessed all the attendees with a relic of the Holy Cross.

For the first time, all Scout groups in Jerusalem participated in the procession, escorting the cardinal from the Lions’ Gate, one of the seven open gates of the Old City of Jerusalem, to the Collège des Frères, where the New Gate is located, as a sign of Christian unity and solidarity with the people in Gaza. On Palm Sunday, more than 500 Christians sheltering at Holy Family Parish in Gaza City celebrated the feast day with a Mass and procession, despite the suffering and ongoing war between Israel and Hamas. 

“Despite the sadness that surrounds us, I saw something very beautiful today: your Christian unity,” the cardinal told the people gathered for the procession in Jerusalem.

“As the patron of this Holy Land, I ask you to stay and maintain this unity among you. This is how we are stronger, and I bless you in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

“A holy and blessed week to all.”

This article was adapted from the website of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem. Read the original article, by Nicolawos Hazboun and Miral Atik, here.

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