The Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre in the times of Covid-19 | Custodia Terrae Sanctae

The Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre in the times of Covid-19

“The community of the friars of the Sepulchre is made up of 11 brothers,” says Fr. Salvador Rosas Flores, Superior of the Franciscan convent at the Holy Sepulchre. “Despite the complete absence of pilgrims, we are keeping up our rhythm of prayer and fraternity.

Our main intention of prayer, in this period, is the request to the Lord to take care of the situation that the whole world is facing.”

Even in this very particular time, in the Basilica, the Franciscans and the other Christian communities present continue to respect the rules of the Status Quo, celebrating their liturgies at the Tomb, at Calvary and in all the holy places inside the Holy Sepulchre. “There are seven presbyters amongst us, the Franciscans, and every day we celebrate at least one Mass each, for a total of seven daily Masses, which are usually celebrated by groups of pilgrims; one solemn Mass in front of the edicule, four in the Tomb and two at Calvary.” Although they are few in number, the Franciscans continue to meet to observe the daily rhythms of prayer, including Vespers, the daily procession and the night Office.

The intentions, during the times of prayer, are multiple. “As well as those which continuously entrusted to us by pilgrims and benefactors,” continues Fr. Salvador “in this historic time, our main concern is praying for all the countries in the world that are suffering because of Coronavirus”. A single intention that contains many nuances: the main thought is turned to the spread of the virus, but the prayers are also directed to the health care personnel, the patients and the governments, so that they can make the right and coherent decisions, without forgetting the economic sphere, and the difficulties suffered by workers and their families.

The uncertainty of the global situation is also creating variable feelings in the community, but our unshaking trust in the Lord is there in the background. “We are attentive to all the current problems,” says Fr. Salvador, “but we are even more so for Covid-19. There are two reasons for this: we live in a region where more and more people are falling ill and, above all, we come from different parts of the world: Europe, the Middle East North America and Latin America, which are starting to come into contact with the issue of the increase in infections.”

Technology and social media are also fundamental tools for the Franciscans of the Holy Sepulchre. Thanks to them, they can keep relations and contacts with abroad alive: the different Franciscan provinces, their countries of origin and their families. “We know everybody’s conditions and we are trying to ensure that nobody is lacking support and encouragement. Above all, we are trying to advise our friends of forms of behaviour that we know have been successful elsewhere and which we also follow, of course. The Lord will help us.


Giovanni Malaspina