JERUSALEM – On Sunday, March 6th, twenty Franciscans led by Fr. Stephane Milovitch, OFM, accompanied the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, His Beatitude Pierbattista Pizzaballa, to the Holy Sepulchre, with three Canons of the Holy Sepulchre as well as priests of the Patriarchate. The procession left the Latin Patriarchate at the Jaffa Gate, under the banner of the silver cross with two crossbars, and went into the streets of the Old City to the beat of the iron rods of the Kawas.
After the solemn entry into the Holy Sepulchre, the Patriarch presided over a mass without celebrating, in front of the altar dedicated to Saint Mary Magdalene, adjacent to the Franciscan chapel. The Patriarch incensed the altar and then sat under the canopy facing it.
Accompanied by the Gregorian chants of their choir, the Franciscans led the service, traditionally opened with Lauds. They were followed by the readings of the day, alternately in Arabic and Italian, and then the proclamation of the Gospel. A booklet in four or five languages was made available to the faithful, for the universality of the Church was fully manifested in this assembly of a hundred people. The five continents were represented, by both religious and lay people, united to celebrate here in the name of the whole Church.
The assembly, composed of many priests and seminarians in addition to the Franciscans, also included about twenty religious women, among whom the Missionaries of Charity (Sister of Mother Theresa), the Sisters of the Sacred Heart of the Incarnate Word, the Rosary Sisters and the Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate. Regarding the laity, the local faithful were joined by some expatriates and, for the first time in more than two years, by pilgrims, mainly from Europe, the United States and India.
After the final blessing of the faithful by the Patriarch, the Patriarchal delegation quickly left the Holy Sepulchre, escorted back to the Jaffa Gate by the Franciscans.
Throughout Lent, this solemn Mass will be celebrated in the same way (NB: after the changeover to summer time on 25 March, it will begin at 9.30 am).