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Saturday, May 25, 2013

An ecumenical and beautiful ‘procession of the Virgin’ in Haifa

Haifa article 
 HAIFA – After the Palm Sunday procession in Jerusalem, the procession in honor of the Blessed Virgin in Haifa is certainly the largest gathering of Christians in the Holy Land. The customary schedule was unsettled by “the unification of the Easter Feast.” The faithful repeatedly asked, “when will the ‘Procession of the Virgin’ in Haifa be held?” It finally took place on Sunday, May 19, the third Sunday of Easter according to the Julian calendar.

The event was officially sponsored by the Carmelite Order, organized by Fr. Abdo Abdo, a Carmelite and pastor of the Latin Carmel parish in Haifa. The procession was led by the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, His Beatitude Fouad Twal, accompanied by Bishop Giacinto-Boulos Marcuzzo, Fr. Milton Altamirando, OCD, and twenty priests of all rites, the Orthodox pastor of Haifa, thousands of religious and lay faithful from the region of Galilee.  It was a very beautiful occasion, encouraged and recommended by the uniqueness of the Year of Faith, although some organizers regretted the absence of many more participants, probably due to the date change.

Someone noted, for example, the absence this year of the religious of Galilee, except for the Carmelites.  The seminarians of the Latin Patriarchate in Beit Jala, whose presence were normally well marked by their chants and prayers, apologized for their absence because of an unfortunate conflict in their program. The animation was provided this year by the Latin parish choir, the group ‘New life’ and the good singers from various communities.

The faithful of Palestine were not as numerous this year because “holiday permissions” (granted by Israel) had expired.  Scout groups were fewer as well, down from 13 to 8, due to the change in the date of the Easter Feast. The overall atmosphere was very good and festive. However, the procession moved slowly due to other parades and presentations.

The statue of Our Lady of Mount Carmel was mounted on a trolley (an old car without engine) and drawn by volunteers with four long ropes. These men and women, young and old, often walk bare-foot in penitence, are becoming more numerous. With the increasing number of people, the length of the ropes had to be extended to allow a more ‘draggers’ to participate. There is certainly a spirit of penitence, but as in the first procession of 1919, it is about joy and gratitude to the Lord and the Blessed Virgin for the dangers avoided during the First World War.  It has become a very popular traditional ritual.

At the end of the procession which lasted two hours and 45 minutes, Patriarch Twal addressed his thanks to all the organizers and participants, along with best wishes for the Easter season.  He then gave the blessing with the traditional relic of the cross.  The Patriarch also asked for special prayer for the two Syrian Bishops abducted in Aleppo, and for reconciliation, peace and unity in Syria.

After the religious program, a more or less spontaneous and popular event, “for Syria, against the war, occupation and imperialism” was organized in front of the Consulate General of France in Haifa, along the road that descends from Mount Carmel.

Source:  http://en.lpj.org/2013/05/24/an-ecumenical-and-beautiful-procession-of-the-virgin-in-haifa/

From our correspondents Haifa. Photos LZ   

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