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Christians waved palm and olive branches as they walked the traditional path that Jesus took on his last entry into Jerusalem during the Palm Sunday procession on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem March 24.
Christians waved palm and olive branches as they walked the traditional path that Jesus took on his last entry into Jerusalem during the Palm Sunday procession on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem March 24.
Photo Credit: Debbie Hill | OSV News

Christians celebrate Palm Sunday in Holy Land ‘crushed by so much hatred’

Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem Cdl. Pizzaballa said it is more important now ‘to shout strongly that Jesus is our Messiah, He is our Lord’

JERUSALEM — When Christians gathered in Jerusalem to remember Jesus’ entry into the city, it was one of a few joyful moments in the Holy Land, “crushed by so much hatred” in the months following the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel.

“Despite the war and everything going on around us this year, we have once again chosen to celebrate Jesus’ triumphal entry into the Holy City,” said Cardinal Pierbattista Pizzaballa, Latin patriarch of Jerusalem, as the traditional Palm Sunday procession moved through the streets of the city.

“We have joined voices with those who sang in Jerusalem two thousand years ago: ‘Hosanna Filio David,’ Hosanna to the Son of David,” he said. Especially now, it is “even more important and necessary to shout strongly that Jesus is our Messiah, He is our Lord,” the patriarch said March 24.

Over the past months, Cardinal Pizzaballa said, many felt “lost or alone and without reference points,” and “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 added.

Walking through the unusually empty streets of Jerusalem, given the Holy Week and Easter time, the patriarch emphasized that the celebration in this time, when many of the dioceses “could not join us,” makes it all the more important 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!” the Church leader emphasized in his message for Palm Sunday.

“Following Jesus also means accepting the way of the cross,” something Christians in the Holy Land “unfortunately know well,” he continued, because their “ordinary life is often a ‘via crucis,’ a painful road, marked by many obstacles, misunderstandings, rejections and hostilities of all kinds.”

“Yet this does not discourage us,” the patriarch said.

Cardinal Pizzaballa said Jerusalem is a land that is holy but “wounded because it is invaded by so much hatred and resentment.” “Woe to us if we allow ourselves to be contaminated by all of this,” he said in his Palm Sunday message. “Today, we want to ask God to preserve our hearts from these feelings of enmity. For we cannot remain friends of Jesus if we cultivate enmity in our hearts. We cannot love Jesus if we do not love one another, and if we do not have the courage to be close to all, even in the present tragic circumstances in which we live in. We want to live, suffer and act with Him and for Him.”

Praying for peace for Jerusalem and the region, the patriarch asked for “peace, which is a cordial and sincere welcoming of the other, a tenacious willingness to listen and to be in dialogue, that opens roads on which fear and suspicion give way to understanding, encounter and trust.”

As the Church entered “the week of the passion,” Cardinal Pizzaballa asked that the days “give us strength,” and reminded all that this time of the year shows everyone the Lord “does not leave us alone.”

At the Vatican, Pope Francis said that only Jesus can deliver humanity from hatred and violence.

“Jesus entered Jerusalem as a humble and peaceful king,” he said in brief remarks after celebrating Palm Sunday Mass in St. Peter’s Square. He prayed that the faithful would open their hearts to the Lord because He alone “can deliver us from animosity, hatred, violence, because He is mercy and the forgiveness of sins.”

On a sunny and windy day, about 60,000 people attended the Mass March 24, which began with a solemn procession of hundreds of people carrying green palm branches followed by about 60 cardinals and bishops carrying “palmurelli,” pale green palm branches that were woven and braided.

Dressed in red vestments, the color of the passion, Pope Francis presided over the Mass, the solemn beginning of Holy Week, but he skipped the homily and did not have an aide read any prepared remarks. Cardinal Claudio Gugerotti, prefect of the Dicastery for Eastern Churches, was the main celebrant at the altar.

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