JERUSALEM – The Pope’s visit lasts three days, but required six months of preparations. His visit to the Latin Patriarchate will be a few hours, but has involved many hours of hard work to get everything shining, from painting stairways to kitchen preparations. A digression from behind the scenes of a papal trip!
There is a small group of employees working daily within the walls of the Latin Patriarchate removing layers of dust that may clash with the whiteness of the papal cassock! Painting, varnishing, washing, upgrading, repairing, checking lights, polishing… All rooms through which the Pope moves should be welcoming and spotless.
Covered with paint, the workers relentlessly tackle the chores with paint brush, broom and screwdriver until the smallest particle of dust has been eradicated and things misaligned are aligned. When Vatican flags are raised in the courtyard, there is a sense of completion. With relief, the final touch is put with flowers and green plants. Mission accomplished!
The menu, the chef recommends…
When everything is ready, it serves to remember one of the reasons it was necessary for a makeover of the Patriarchate. The Papal dinner! In the kitchens all are restless. Serene, honored, and aware of his difficult mission, Cher Joseph Asfour, a native of Jerusalem, dons for the third time the “chef of the pope” apron.
Saint John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI, during their travels in the Holy Land, had already tasted the food of the chef who has cooked for Arafat, Tony Blair, Mahmoud Abbas, or other political personalities from Palestine. “There’s a different feeling when I cook for the Pope, he says. I am a Catholic, and I like to put myself in his service. It is an honor, a great honor.”
The stakes are high: you have to feed the Pope after a busy day and try to make him discover some local specialties. Dishes on the menu include fish carpaccio, lamb makloubeh, lemon mint sherbet knead eh and others, without omitting the essential hummus. It was previously indicated that the Pope does not take wine.
However maybe he’ll dip his lips in the wine produced in the north of the country, chosen for the occasion for its fine quality.
At least 335 plates
Sixty seven guests and a five course menu. Or 335 plates! Among those who have the joy of sharing this meal are several Patriarchs. Patriarch Fouad Twal, who invited the Bishop of Rome, Pope Francis, Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople and others from the Eastern Churches to share this meal with the Pope.
The time allotted for the meal is exactly 50 minutes, so as to avoid conflict with the rest of the program. The Chef meanwhile assures that the five course serving does not last more than 40 minutes. Ten minutes remain to begin digestion and transition to the next step.
At this point, really, a sigh of relief at the Patriarchate …
Pierre Loup de Raucourt