“Living in Jerusalem means experiencing the differences and being aware of the fact that the Gospel has spread throughout the world and has permeated different cultures and languages, giving life to various liturgical traditions. Each of the Churches goes to Jerusalem to be present in the Holy Places and to renew itself. This is the only place in the world where you can experience the Church’s Catholicity and universality”. Father Frans Bouwen, a member of the religious family of the Missionaries of Africa (White Fathers), said this, talking about the upcoming Easter which the Western Churches will celebrate on Sunday, 1 April, and the Eastern Churches on the following Sunday. As the website Terrasanta.net reports, the missionary, who has been serving in the Holy Land for 40 years, recalls the “many efforts that have been made to try to celebrate Easter together on the same day. In Greece, Cyprus and Egypt, Catholics, who are a small minority, celebrate the Feast with the majority, who are Orthodox Christians. Consequently, Pentecost and other feasts that do not have a fixed date in the calendar are also celebrated on the same day”. Now the same thing happens in some parishes in Ramallah and Taybeh (Palestinian Territories) and also in Jordan.
“People tried to do the same in Jerusalem, but that caused more divisions than unity”, the religious added. Christmas and Easter may become occasions for dialogue for the Churches, thanks to the usual exchange of greetings between religious leaders. “These are very useful initiatives for dialogue – the Missionary of Africa remarked -. It is these fraternal meetings that create confidence and mutual understanding. It is not so much the disputes in the Holy Places that are important for ecumenism, but the Churches and people who live together”. Father Bouwen is also the president of the Bishops’ Commission for Ecumenical Dialogue. “We are ten persons in the Commission today. We started with a small group and we are trying to grow slowly. The body was founded in November 2016 and started its work a few months later. Our mission has two goals: enhancing ecumenical awareness and understanding how Churches can concretely live together”. There is no shortage of steps for mutual rapprochement in Jerusalem. Fr. Bouwen concluded: “When people tell me that there are too many conflicts between the Churches in Jerusalem, I always say: ‘Try and put together people so different from one another in a place so small: who could do better?’”.