More than 5,000 Christians took part in the traditional procession in honour of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, popularly called Taalat al-Adra, the 'Ascent of the Virgin' on Monday.
Along the route which runs from the Latin parish of Haifa to the Stella Maris Carmelite monastery, located on Mount Carmel, the faithful of all the rites walked reciting prayers and singing hymns to the Virgin.
Carmelite Father Mikhael Abdo OCD, National Director of the Pontifical Mission Societies of the Holy Land, said the event was organised this year in particular by young university students and groups linked to movements, such as the Focolari. There was also a choir from Beit Sahour.
Hundreds of Filipino, Indian and other African and Asian immigrant workers took part in the public act of devotion to the Virgin Mary, along with pilgrims from Europe, while many Jews and Muslims also gathered at the procession.
Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa, Apostolic Administrator of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, Archbishop Leopoldo Girelli, Apostolic Nuncio in Israel, and Fr Saverio Cannistrà, Father General of the Discalced Carmelites participated in the procession.
The 'ascent of the Virgin' is a popular tradition that has deep roots in the lives of the Christians of the Holy Land. "
Fr Abdo said: "At the time of the First World War the Turks gave the Carmelite Fathers three hours to leave the monastery on Mount Carmel. They had left with only a few archival documents and the statue of the Virgin. After the war, in 1919, the first procession was held, to return the statue to the monastery, and as an act of thanksgiving. In the past, crowds have been even bigger, but now the limits to freedom of movement make it impossible for those who once came from Lebanon to participate.
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