One week after the outbreak of the war between Israel and Hamas, the friars of the Custody of the Holy Land came together for two moments of prayer dedicated in particular to peace.
The Via Crucis
Every Friday, for centuries, the Franciscans have performed the Pious Exercise of the Via Crucis on the Via Dolorosa, going through the Old City of Jerusalem, from the sanctuary of the Flagellation to the Holy Sepulchre. It is a tradition that continued, with the due precautions, even during the Covid pandemic. On 13 October, however, the Via Crucis was held inside St Saviour’s church, for reasons of safety. This is rare event, which has taken place in the past only on very few occasions when there were problems of public order.
A small procession made up of the Custos of the Holy Land, fra Francesco Patton, the master of ceremonies and two friars, followed the perimeter of the church, halting at every Station. From the pews of the church, the whole community of the friars of St Saviour, some religious sisters and a few faithful, accompanied the prayer. Before the final blessing, there was a moment of silence to invoke the gift of peace.
The Rosary for peace
On Saturday 14 October, a special moment of prayer was held in St Saviour’s church, with the Recital of the Rosary for peace, at the foot of the statue of Our Lady of Fatima. The five meditated Mysteries were chosen from an observation of John Paul II in the Apostolic Letter Rosarium Virginis Mariae . “The Rosary is by its nature a prayer for peace,” the Pope wrote. He then explicitly mentions five Mysteries of the Rosary: the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem (joyful mysteries), the announcement of the Kingdom of God (mysteries of the light), the death of Jesus on the cross (the sorrowful mysteries), the glory of Christ Risen and the coronation of Mary Queen of Peace (the glorious mysteries).
After the singing of Salve Regina and the litanies of the Blessed Virgin Mary, St John Paul II’s Prayer for Peace was recited: “Look with special attention upon the land in which you gave birth to Jesus, a land that you loved together with him and that is still so sorely tried today. Pray for us, Mother of hope! “Give us days of peace, watch over our way. Let us see your son as we rejoice in heaven.” Amen! The moment of prayer came to an end with the final blessing and the singing of Sub tuum praesidium.
The battle of peace
Reciting the Rosary introduces the Christian to facing up to reality with new eyes. This is what John Paul writes in the Apostolic Letter. “By focusing our eyes on Christ, the Rosary also makes us peacemakers in the world. It allows us to hope that even today, the difficult ‘battle’ for peace can be won. Far from offering an escape from the problems of the world, the Rosary obliges us to see them with responsible and generous eyes, and obtains for us the strength to face them with the certainty of God’s help.”