Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land - 19/03/2000 info:
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After the Sunday Mass.....

St. Saviour's Belfry
The Parish Churhc of Jerusalem

Jerusalem 19.03.2000

It is Sunday. It would have been an ordinary Sunday for the Catholic community of the parish of St. Saviour in Jerusalem. But this Sunday is a particular Sunday. It is the last before the arrival of Pope John Paul II in the Holy Land. And it also happened to be a Sunday in Lent. Few know that during Lent the Church of Jerusalem performs special vigils and processions within the Old City of Jerusalem. On Saturday afternoon the Franciscan Community of St. Saviour accompanies the Latin Patriararch through the roads of the city for a solemn entry into he Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre. The same takes place on Sunday morning after which a solemn Mass is celebrateed in front of the tomb of the Lord. Solemn prayers are also held at midnight by the Franciscan community at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. All these are "ordinary" matters for a christian who lives in this city.

But today the pilgrimage of His Holiness Pope John Paul II looms overhead. Time is ticking by and the last minute preparations are in full swing. Everyone is taking his place, from the security people to the pilgrim, from the friar at the service of a sanctuary to the bus driver. Pilgrims who are pouring in the country are still looking for some remaining tickets to be able to see the Pope. But the tickets are almost all gone. For the Mass at the Holy Sepulchre there are no more tickets available and only a few remain for the other venues.

The Pope's visit has instilled a new pride in the Christian minority of these lands. Not a pride to be "better" than the others around them but a "pride" that make them feel part of the large international Christian community. Speaking with some of them after attending the Sunday Mass at the Franciscan Latin Parish of Jerusalem you could feel the joy in their hearts for being witnesses to this event. Among them there were also those who were young during Pope Paul VI visit in 1964. The young speak aloud and show off the small white and yellow flags which they are putting all over the Christian quarters of Jerusalem. The old try to compare today's feeling with the one they had in 1964. Among them there was Abu Jacoub. With a grin on his face he affirmed that this is a different visit from the one he experienced in 1964. Then Pope Paul VI passed through the crowds surrounded by the security people, he shook hands with the people, he even visited the home of a Christian in Jerusalem. This time, the Pope will have to use the popemobil and security reasons will keep him off the crowds. But even if there is this difference there is the same joy and awaiting in anticipation. Abu Jacoub looks forward to be in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre with his friends and parishioners of Jerusalem to pray with the Pope. This is what is most important in this visit. Not the political innuendoes that are being sought by many. Not the contacts and official meetings. It is the spirit of prayer, meditation and devotion that are the basis of this pilgrimage. And this old man of this old city will welcome the old Pope wholeheartedly even if he is very aware that there will be those who will be looking for gestures, words and deeds which have nothing to do with the Pope's pilgrimage spirit.

The young Christian crowd of Jerusalem is looking forward to be with the Pope for these few days. They believe strongly that his visit will help them be more attentive to Christian issues, will give them more strength to live as a very small minority in these lands and above all witness the Christian message which will be strongly proclaimed by Pope John Paul from the very sites where it was proclaimed nearly two thousand years ago.

But the Pope's visit is still creating reactions of a different nature from other sectors of the population. There are those who still paint graffiti here and there (they are a very small minority though) and someone even arrived at disturbing the new helipad prepared for the Pope's helicopter next to the Apostolic Delegation at the foot of Mount Scopus. Here even the swastikas came to light. And as usual here fingers are being pointed from one side to another. But we are sure that incidents like this will not mar this pilgrimage.


Created / Updated Sunday, March 19, 2000 at 20:27:36