Since the beginning of 2023, the convent of Deir Rafat has been undergoing some renovation work, funded by the New South Wales Lieutenancy of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulcher in Australia, to better serve local and international pilgrims, especially the youth and scouts.
On Sunday 14th, May 2023, His Beatitude Pierbattista Pizzaballa, Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, presided over a Mass in the church of Our Lady Queen of Palestine and of the Holy Land, in the presence of 15 knights, Mr. Sami El-Yousef, Chief Executive Officer of the Latin Patriarchate and several other LPJ staff members, as well as the sisters of Bethlehem, in order to bless the finished renovations. During the celebration, two of the knights received their pilgrim shells. For the occasion, Mr. Sami El-Yousef gave a briefing about the strong relations of the Equestrian Order with the Christians of the Holy Land, and about the help their financial support has brought and is bringing to the Church.
Blessing of the site by His Beatitude
Speech of Mr. Sami El-Yousef
In Deir Rafat can be found the shrine of Mary, Queen of Palestine and the Holy Land, who is the Patron Saint of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem and the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulcher of Jerusalem. Mgr Luigi Barlassina, Patriarch from 1920 to 1947, purchased the land to establish this Marian sanctuary, which was built in 1925. It hosts a church, the convent of the sisters of Bethlehem, who look after the site, a priest residence, a modest guesthouse, and an abandoned building that used to be a youth center. The shrine is located 35 kilometers west of Jerusalem and overlooks the mountains of Judea and the Sorek Valley. It is a significant pilgrim site for the Christians of the Holy Land as it hosts one of the major celebrations of the year; the liturgical feast of the Virgin Mary, Queen of Palestine and the Holy Land, led by the Patriarch of Jerusalem on the last Sunday of October. Usually attended by thousands of faithful from all over the country to ask for the intercession of Our Lady over the Land and to commune with one another, the Mass is celebrated under a pergola, which has recently been renovated thanks to the New South Wales Lieutenancy – whose funds will also allow for the instalment of cooling and heating systems as well as other maintenance work of the building and its surroundings, and soon-to-be established sanitary units.
Photos from last year’s celebration, October 2022
The renovations were made possible thanks to the generosity of the late Dr. Glen Coorey, KGCHS, and his late wife Mrs. Suzanne Coorey, DGCHS, with the aim of “building bridges between local and international young Christians and their counterparts from around the world”; “creating bonds of solidarity between local Christian youth groups to sustain their presence in the Holy Land and fortify their commitment to the Ministry of Jesus”; “improving the physical structure of the church, guest house, and the main yard to enable the Rafat convent to host major celebrations and facilitate youth encounters.”
The reviving of this site, dear to the heart of the faithful of this Land, will help in continuing the legacy of its mission in hosting a safe place for the Christian youth. Mgr Pizzaballa has strongly supported this restoration, seeing the youth as the backbone of the local church.
By: Miral Atik