Celebrations at the Holy Sepulchre

Posted on Mar 30, 2020


“Following the evolution of the situation in the Holy Land, we, the leaders of the three communities to whom Divine Providence has entrusted the grace and honour of making the praise of God resound in the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre and of the Resurrection, wish to communicate that the celebrations of the three Greek-Orthodox, Latin and Armenian communities will continue regularly”.

The official note is signed by Brother Francesco Patton, Custos of the Holy Land, His Beatitude Theophilus III, Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem and His Excellency Nourhan Manugian, Armenian Patriarch of Jerusalem.

“However,” continues the note, “for security reasons and to avoid the risk of contagion from Covid-19, the number of participants in individual celebrations will be limited to a few people, and the Basilica will be accessible only during liturgies. We want to assure that within the Basilica itself the prayer of the three communities will continue regularly and will be intensified to ask the Heavenly Father for the cessation of the pandemic, the healing of the sick, the protection of health care personnel, the wisdom for Pastors and Rulers and the eternal Salvation of those who have died. We raise this prayer at the very place where through the sacrifice of his life on Calvary and the Resurrection from the tomb on the third day, the only begotten and loved Son of God overcame evil, sin and death.”

Holy Land Custos
“Technically, the Holy Sepulchre is not closed… because if it were closed, the courtyard in front of it would be closed too. The courtyard in front of it is part of the Holy Sepulchre, so the fact that the courtyard in front of it is not closed is already a sign. Then the Sepulchre remains open for the celebrations, for the liturgies, but obviously everything will be done with all the necessary precautions.”

Just a few days ago – albeit with a small number of participants – one of the last solemn public occasions for prayer inside the Basilica: the one held every Lent week on the night between Saturday and Sunday in preparation for Easter.

It is a rite told by the pilgrim Egeria between the years 384 and 386. The friars of the Custody of the Holy Land meet shortly before midnight in the Chapel of the Blessed Sacrament. The celebration begins with the office of reading.

Then, a special moment is represented by the procession with the Gospel Book around the Wayside Shrine of the Holy Sepulchre. Every Sunday, one of the Gospels of the Resurrection is proclaimed since this is the place of the empty tomb from where Jesus rose again.

Br. Francesco Patton, Custos of the Holy Land, presided over the celebration. From here, from the place par excellence of Jesus’ victory over death, the prayer of the Franciscan friars rises.

“The Franciscan community of the Holy Sepulchre supports you with prayer, together with the prayer of the world at this difficult time. Peace and good!”