Olive Branch -
Issue No. 139 - Saturday, 23 March 2002

Dear Friends, Brothers and Sisters,

Tomorrow we will celebrate the Palm Sunday which the beginning of the Holy Week. The Patriarch will preside the morning pontifical Mass at the Basilica of the Holy Sepulcher which will be followed with the procession around the tomb of Jesus. The mass begins very early at 6.30. Afternoon he will lead the traditional procession from Beitfage to Jerusalem with other bishops, this year we are honored to have with us the Archbishop of Canterbury Rev. Dr. George Carey who will take part in the procession and will deliver the homily at the end in the square of St Anne’s Church. This event is unique because normally this is a Catholic procession, but since some years the Anglican bishop and the Lutheran Bishop and sometimes the Syrian and the Armenian bishop take part in it, and since the Archbishop is actually in the country he was invited by our Patriarch. Normally around 15 to 20 thousand people take part in this procession, but this year we don’t expect more than 5000 due to the current situation, the absence of pilgrims, the fear of some of our communities to come from inside Israel and especially that Christians from the neighboring towns and villages are forbidden to enter Jerusalem and permits are not given easily.


At the end of the procession a group of around 25 young people from Italy will hand to the Patriarch the lamb of light they brought with them from Rome given by the Pope himself. This group arrived yesterday in a solidarity visit to the Holy Land and they represent all the Italian Church. They visited today Ramallah, saw the destruction in the city and the surrounding refugee camps, They met a group of young people from our parish and met also President Arafat and gave him a lamb of light also. Tomorrow morning the will go to Bethlehem and celebrate mass with the Parish at the nativity Church and they will give another Lamb of Light. It seems that they brought with them 8 Lambs and will be given to Palestinians and Israelis, Christians Moslems and Jews. I like this idea, the light returns back from Rome to Jerusalem, while the initial light of the resurrection went out from Jerusalem to Rome and to the whole world… We are really in a deep need of more light in the darkness of these days.


After tomorrow will begin the “Fast for Peace” nearby Bethlehem checkpoint, we are preparing for that and we hope that this will bring about good fruits and will attract the attention of the media. These people, Israelis and Palestinians will use this nonviolent pacific way in order to convey a message of peace to their governments and to the world: to stop all forms of violence, to go back to the negotiation table, to implement the Mitchell plan, to reach a solution to this conflict on the basis of the international legitimacy.