08 Oct Holy Land Custody: Conclusion of the Celebrations of the 8th centenary of the pilgrimage of peace by St Francis in the Holy Land
At the end of the days celebrating the 8th centenary of the pilgrimage of peace by St Francis in the Holy Land, there were two events concluding the commemoration: the Solemn Entrance to the Holy Sepulchre by Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, Prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches, and the visit to the Mosque of Al-Aqsa which was followed by a meeting with the representatives of the Grand Mufti and of the Waqf.
On Wednesday 2nd October, following the protocol, the solemn entrance of Cardinal Sandri started from the Jaffa Gate where he was welcomed by the Armenian and Greek orthodox delegations. The cardinal was followed by the Custos of the Holy Land, Fr. Francesco Patton and a large group of Franciscans headed by the Kawas. The delegation then set off in a procession for the Sepulchre, the door of which, symbolically closed, was reopened for the event. In the square in front of the Basilica, the Cardinal was welcomed by the authorities representing the different Christian communities present in the Basilica. On entering, Cardinal Sandri kissed the Stone of Unction and aspersed the crowd present there.Immediately afterwards, he went to the Anastasis, the place of the Resurrection, where the Te Deum was sung and the Apostolic Administrator of the Latin Patriarchate Mons. Pierbattista Pizzaballa and the Cardinal spoke to the friars and the faithful present. In his address, Mons. Pizzaballaemphasized the close bond between Rome and Jerusalem. “The Mother Church of Jerusalem is not complete,” the Apostolic Administrator said, “without unity with the authority of Peter. At the same time, we like to think that the authority of Peter’s successor cannot be complete without the Mother Church of Jerusalem, custodian of the incarnation of Our Lord Jesus Christ. […] Welcome, welcome to this Land which God chose as His Homeland.”
On Thursday 3rd October, the most significant central meeting took place in the area of the Al-Aqsa Mosque. The Franciscan delegation that accompanied Cardinal Sandri, the Apostolic Nuncio Mons. Leopoldo Girelli and the Custos of the Holy Land Fr. Patton, visited the Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa Mosque, some of the most sacred places for Islam. This was followed by a meeting in the Library in the complex of the mosques. The first to speak was Azzam Al-Ahmad, in charge of the Waqf (the organization which looks after Muslim buildings in Jerusalem), who underlined the historic nature of the meeting taking place, framing it in the context of the visit by Pope Francis in May 2014 when he spoke of the “continuous support of the Church and the Holy See to the Status Quo of the Muslim and Christian shrines.”
Text: Giovanni Malaspina | Photos: Nadim Asfour / CTS