Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land - 24/03/2000 info: email@example.com
His Holiness Pope John Paul II, after assisting for an all night storm with heavy rains and winds in the city of Jerusalem left this Holy and contested city to go up north. This storm which hit also the North of the country delayed the arrival of His Holiness by 40 minutes. He comes to Galilee, to the lake area. Galilee seems to offer more space of movement and is not as suffocating as Jerusalem where words and gestures contribute to create tension or confrontation. It seems that there is nothing new in all this. If we read the Gospels we realise that the Lake area offered Jesus the vital place for his public ministry, a space where he could preach the "Good News" and even if he had to face. His presence in Jerusalem for the Jewish feasts of pilgrimage are almost always presented as moments of confrontation with the authorities there (not that Galilee was completely free from opposition). In the open space of Korazin at the Mount of Beatitudes thousands have been gathering since the early hours of the morning to participate in this feast around the Pope. The local Christians joined the thousands of pilgrims who came to be with the Pope during this pilgrimage to the Holy Land. This is also a special occasion where thousands of youths came from all over the world especially from the Neo-Catechumenal Way (45000) who here are building what is now known as Domus Galilaeae, a house for the study of the Word.
This is considered to be the largest gathering ever held in Israel. Most of these youths came to this site from all over the world and many are still filling these open spaces of Galilee. The night vigil which was supposed to be held tonight had to be cancelled and the inclement weather brought even some snow on the higher Golan Heights. The temperature and the rains are outside the normal weather conditions for this time of the year. From the parishes of all the land of Israel, Palestine and other areas of the Middle East the Christians came in masses. The whole celebration has been prepared and was made possible thanks to the organisation and involvement by the various ecclesiastical movements. It is the first time that about 50000 youths from the Middle East have the possibility to meet together in such a gathering. The Pope entered the open space in the popemobil and went straight to the "tent" set up here over the altar space. Present for this celebration were also the Moslem authorities of region together with other Christian leaders, including the orthodox clergy.
The eucharistic celebration opened with the Pope kissing the Crucifix which dominated the stage. The pope was warmly welcomed to Galilee by the Greek Melchite bishop of Galilee. Galilee is the land where the flame of the Gospel was passed to the apostles after the Resurrection and which today is still being carried by the Successor of Peter. A welcome coming from all denominations of Galilee especially from the youth of this land and from 80 countries have flowed to this area together with 100 bishops and 1200 priests to hear again the message of the Beatitudes. A message which is still valid because the peoples of this area have suffered and all look forward to obtain a just peace and live together in harmony. The bishop continued "We have only one hope, that the Pope who changed a lot in this world will help bring peace to these lands. Blessed are those who bring peace. We ask your blessings on all of us".
Then a young man from the Church of Jerusalem welcomed the Pope as the successor of the fisherman of Galilee who returns to his land. He presented the desire of the young men and women of this Mother Church to live fully and be witness of the event Jesus Christ. He affirmed that all this gathering came to hear the words from this site from where Jesus presented to the world the Good News.
The Pope then addressed the assembly as rthe new disciples who came to hear the words of the Gospel, still fresh and valid as it wa pronounced on this mountain as the New Law of the New People of God. He greeted them in this land of Galilee the Land of Peter and he as Successor feels his protection in caring for the flock.
After this introductory welcome and the penitential rite interspersed with the Gregorian Kyrie from the "Missa de Angelis" His Holiness intoned the glory which was sung in Arabic with a a Latin refrain of "Gloria, Gloria in excelsis Deo". After the opening prayer the first reading from prophet Zephonias was read in Italian: (2:3; 12-13) "Seek the Lord, all you humble of the land, you who do what he commands. Seek righteousness, seek humility; perhaps you will be sheltered on the day of the Lord's anger. But I will leave within you the meek and humble, who trust in the name of the Lord. The remnant of Israel will do no wrong; they will speak no lies, nor will deceit be found in their mouths. They will eat and lie down and no one will make them afraid.". After the Responsorial psalm sung according to the Maronite rite the second reading taken from the first letter of Paul to the Corinthians (1:26-31) "Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things --and the things that are not --to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God --that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: 'Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.'"
The gospel was proclaimed according to the Greek Melchite rite which was introduced by a procession. Then the Melchite Bishop read the Gospel of Matthew (5:1-12): "Now when he saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them, saying: "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. lessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you." The book of the Gospel was then presented to His Holiness who blessed the assembly with it while the choir sung "tu es sacerdos".
Then His Holiness delivered the Homily.
The Profession of Faith was chanted on the Gregorian melody and then he introduced the prayer of the faithful during which prayers were offered for he Pope, leaders of the church, the poor of the world, for youth, leaders of the world, peace and for all those who suffer injustice. Then the offerings followed with the Eucharistic prayer and communion rite. At the end, after the closing prayer the Pope, in Italian, started to thank all those present especially the members of the Neo Catechumenal way inviting all to be witnesses and followers of the Gospel of the Beatitudes proclaimed by Jesus Christ. A message coming from a place which witness beauty and hope. He repeated this message of hope in various languages including Hebrew and Arabic. He also appealed for peace between Ethiopia and Eritrea. The area used for this celebration will be transformed into a forest in honour of Pope John Paul II , For this purpose the Pope was presented with the first tree to be planted and which he blessed. The celebration ended with the assembly singing and dancing under the hovering clouds. ja