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Near the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in the Old City of Jerusalem, where Jesus was crucified, buried, and rose from the dead — and where Mary witnessed her son’s sacrifice for humanity — Palestinian Christians gathered on Friday, May 31, to ask Our Lady of Palestine to intercede for peace.

As a statue of the Virgin Mary was carried through the ancient streets, large numbers of believers lifted their prayers to the Virgin Mary, asking for her help to end the eight-month-long war in Gaza.Before the procession, a solemn Mass was presided over by Father Amjad Sabbara, the parish priest of the Latin Church in Jerusalem, and attended by the Latin patriarch of Jerusalem, Cardinal Pierbattista Pizzaballa.

In his sermon, Sabbara emphasized the spirituality of the Virgin Mary and her steadfast faith and hope, “she who said yes to the angel, believed in the will of the Father, and clung to hope in the face of the harsh sight of the cross.”

“Today, we live the same scene of crucifixion, and we must, like Mary, hold onto hope that we will move toward resurrection and salvation,” he continued. “Christ came here and died here to make us heroes in our life stories, not stories of the past or future. Through the Virgin Mary and her life journey on this holy land, we can become heroes and saints living in the same place where she lived.”

Speaking to ACI Mena, CNA’s Arabic-language news partner, Pizzaballa remarked: “You cannot talk about the family without the mother, nor can you talk about the Church without Mary. Mary is our mother; a mother who feels the pain of her children. Today, Mary feels the suffering of her people, looks at them with compassion, and prays fervently for us to our heavenly Father.”

The procession started from the Church of St. Savior and was attended by hundreds of Christians along with several bishops, Franciscan monks, priests, and nuns. It then paused in three places: the School of the Frères, the Latin Patriarchate Church in Jerusalem, and finally the Custody of the Holy Land — the headquarters of the Franciscan monks.

The procession passed through the New Gate and Jaffa Gate — two of the most famous gates of Jerusalem — and through the heart of the Christian Quarter, where hundreds of residents welcomed the statue of the Virgin Mary by sprinkling flowers and receiving blessings.

A traditional aspect of this event is the participation of high school students from St. Joseph’s School for Girls in Jerusalem, who carry the statue of the Virgin Mary, dressed in Marian robes, with the help of the Arab Catholic Scouts.

Among the girls carrying the statue was Selene Nicodemus, 16, who expressed her gratitude for this opportunity, saying: “It is not easy to carry the statue of the Virgin and march with it for this long distance. Today, I remembered the difficult journey that the Virgin Mary lived, and I kept telling myself, ‘The Virgin always carries my worries and problems, and today I carry her memory and walk with it through the old alleys of Jerusalem.’ It is a beautiful feeling, and I thank the Virgin for this opportunity.”

Another participant was Marie Claire, a volunteer from Canada, who expressed her amazement at the procession, saying: “What affected me the most was the Palestinians here singing a hymn titled ‘O Daughter of This Land and Mother of All People’: ‘Evil has overwhelmed and prevailed, grant us peace.’ This hymn touched my heart deeply, especially as Mary is the refuge of the oppressed and the comforter of the sorrowful. Today, the Palestinian people are in dire need of consolation and justice, and here in Jerusalem, they choose the Virgin Mary as their compass in their search for their rights.”

The procession concluded with prayers for peace in Gaza as believers implored the intercession of Our Lady of Palestine, ending their prayers from the heart of Jerusalem with hymns and praises.

By Rafi Ghattas

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