Skip to comments.Pope Opens Holy Week With Palm Sunday Mass
Posted on 04/09/2006 4:44:37 PM PDT by NYer
Pope Benedict XVI blessed palm fronds and olive branches Sunday in the Vatican, opening a ritual-filled Holy Week that pilgrims in Jerusalem celebrated in a procession retracing Jesus' triumphant return to the holy city some 2,000 years ago.
Wearing embroidered red vestments, Benedict processed through St. Peter's Square in Rome, which was lush with the palms and olive trees that are emblematic of the ceremony.
The pope told tens of thousands of people gathered under a brilliant springtime sun that the olive branches were symbols of Christ's peace, the palms symbols of his martyrdom. Palm Sunday marks the beginning of the church's weeklong commemoration of the last days of Christ's life and his resurrection on Easter Sunday in the Christian tradition.
"With this liturgical assembly we enter into Holy Week, to live the Passion, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ," Benedict said in an opening prayer of the Palm Sunday Mass.
Pope John Paul II had made a tradition of dedicating Palm Sunday to the world's young people, and Benedict continued that legacy in his first year as pope.
After the Mass, young people from Cologne, Germany, which hosted last year's World Youth Day, formally handed over the large wooden cross used during the church's international celebration to a group of youngsters from Sydney, Australia, who are hosting the next gathering in 2008.
Benedict told them that for many, the cross on which Christ was crucified signified only his death and sacrifice. "But Palm Sunday tells us that ... it is the cross that is the true tree of life," he said, calling the cross a symbol of poverty, peace and the universality of the church.
According to tradition, Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey a week before his crucifixion as followers spread palm branches in his path.
In Jerusalem on Sunday, some 20,000 pilgrims from around the world joyously waved palm fronds and flags as they marched from the Mount of Olives into the holy city.
The Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Michel Sabbah the top Roman Catholic official in the Holy Land led the procession, which included a mix of young and old, as local Scouts in assorted uniforms walked alongside elderly nuns and priests in colorful robes.
The march drew large crowds for the second year in a row, after several years when pilgrims stayed away because of Israeli-Palestinian violence. Armed Israeli police on horseback and on motorcycles accompanied the procession.
A cacophony of sounds filled the air as some marchers strummed guitars and others banged drums and hoisted loudspeakers playing songs and prayers in a variety of languages. Others hummed nearly silent hymns.
"It reminds me of a Thanksgiving Day parade," said Sister Catherine Hurley from Newton, N.J. "It's not how I would do it, but I'm happy that they are doing it."
Nevertheless, Hurley, a Salesian sister dressed in white with a large cross hanging from her neck, said she was "overwhelmed" by the number of Christians "of all shapes and sizes" converging in the Holy Land.
Pilgrims prayed in several languages, as Haitians, Poles, Ethiopians and Bolivians walked alongside each other, flipping through their prayer books as they marched.
This year's Holy Week will likely be bittersweet for many Roman Catholics, who remember the 2005 ceremonies, when John Paul made his final public appearances, unable to speak to the faithful but determined nevertheless to participate as best he could.
Faithful gather in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican during the Palm Sunday Mass celebrated by Pope Benedict XVI, Sunday, April 9, 2006. Palm Sunday commemorates Jesus Christ's triumphant entry into Jerusalem, and is the start of the church's Holy Week, which includes the Good Friday re-enactment of Christ's crucifixion and death and his resurrection on Easter Sunday. (AP Photo/Pier Paolo Cito)
AP - Sun Apr 9, 2:12 PM ET
Pope Benedict XVI blesses the faithful during an open air Mass to celebrate Palm Sunday in St. Peter's square, the Vatican, Sunday, April 9, 2006. Palm Sunday commemorates Jesus Christ's triumphant entry into Jerusalem, and is the start of the church's Holy Week, which includes the Good Friday re-enactment of Christ's crucifixion and death and his resurrection on Easter Sunday. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)
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Can always count on AP to try to rain on a Catholic's parade.
a Blessed and happy Holy Week to all.
Nope. Pope John Paul II is in Heaven ... good! Pope Benedict XVI is leading the Church on earth ... good!
I love this Pope.
Yesterday (Friday) He came with His disciples from the desert village of Ephrem to Jericho. When near the Jordan we heard from His lips the third prophecy of the crucifixion. Then Salome approached with her two sons, John and James, and begged important positions for them in the coming kingdom. This gave Jesus the opportunity to proclaim His wonderful teaching on humility. We stand close and listen.
The Lord enters Jericho. I am Zacheus, the chief publican, the little man who wants to see the Messiah from a tree. He looks up to me and says, "Today salvation has come to your house!" He stays two nights with me, a despised publican!
Over the Sabbath Jesus remains in Jericho. The next day (Sunday) He starts for Jerusalem at the head of a lordly caravan. Along the road there sits a blind beggar. It is I, again. "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on mel" He heals my eyes, I see, I am enlightened!
In procession we pass through Jericho's inhospitable ravines up to Jerusalem. Night intervenes and Jesus stops at Bethany. He is joyously welcomed by Martha and Mary. Am I an active Martha or a meditating Mary? Possibly it was on this Sunday evening that the memorable meal took place when, with Lazarus present and Martha as hostess, Mary poured out the costly ointment for Jesus' burial. It was the act which estranged Judas completely from his Master.
In solemn procession on Monday afternoon the King of Israel comes to the top of Olivet, weeps over Jerusalem, and then continues on to the temple. We feel ourselves part of this festive procession, waving palms in our hands. We accompany our King and watch Him drive the money-changers out of His Father's house. Tuesday morning He returns with His disciples and while crossing Mt. Olivet curses the unfruitful fig tree, a figure of the Jewish people. This barren tree is likewise a warning for us.
Verbal encounters with the Jews take place in the temple courtyard until Wednesday afternoon when Christ hurls His eightfold curse upon Pharisee and Jew, and leaves the temple forever. With His disciples He then proceeds to the Mount of Olives and delivers His powerful discourse on the end of the world and the destruction of Jerusalem. Present in spirit we hear this sermon and take to heart His final admonition, "Be vigilant!" Meanwhile Judas has left the circle of disciples and offers his assistance to the chief priests.
Thursday morning Christ sends Peter and John from Bethany into the city to make the needed preparation for the Passover meal. As evening falls He bids farewell to His mother and His friends and goes with His apostles to the Upper Room in Jerusalem for His "Last Supper" with them.In mind and in heart we will follow our Blessed Lord closely during these sacred days of Holy Week.
I too have deep respect for Pope Benedict XVI.