Eastern Catholic and Orthodox churches joined together in the western Sydney suburb of Punchbowl to mark Palm Sunday, commemorating Christ's triumphant entry into Jerusalem, reports The Catholic Weekly.
The remarkable gathering also expressed the hope for greater unity and that, one day, ancient divisions will be overcome.
An estimated 5000 Sydney Orthodox Christians and Catholics took advantage of a once-in-four-years alignment of liturgical calendars as they united to celebrate Palm Sunday last weekend.
The alignment of Eastern and Western liturgical calendars meant that this year major Christian traditions were observing the same dates for Holy Week. But for Fr Joseph Sleiman LMO, of St Charbel’s Maronite Catholic Church, Punchbowl, the joy was even greater.
'It’s very important when we celebrate this important event that we recognise that Jesus came to save all of humanity,' he said.
'Jesus prayed for the unity of all of his disciples. Jesus wanted his church to be one. Not two or three or four.
'So when we try to celebrate this kind of thing together, it reflects the unity that God intended for us to have from the beginning.'
The event commenced with liturgies in each community’s respective church, and then saw Maronite Catholic, Melkite Catholic, Antiochian Orthodox and Coptic Orthodox faithful, led by their bishops and clergy, walk the length of Highclere Avenue singing hymns and chanting prayers as they went.
Fadi Moubayed (above) and the Melkite Marching Band Australia performed for the faithful.
The procession ended with a gathering in the courtyard of St Charbel’s College, where the crowd sang hymns and bishops from each of the congregations led the crowd in prayer.
Bishop Antoine-Charbel Tarabay of the Maronite Catholic Church, Bishop Daniel of the Coptic Orthodox Church, Metropolitan Bishop Paul Saliba of the Antiochian Orthodox Church and Bishop Robert Rabbat of the Melkite Eparchy of Australia and New Zealand represented their respective communities.
Bishiop Saliba spoke of the need for revival, especially among young Christians. 'We sing, we shake hands, we smile, and... we leave. Yesterday, to an extent, that was ok, because I wasn’t bombarded by the powers of evil all around me. Today, these powers are focused mainly against my children [and] I see a good number of them drift away from God.'
Photo: Fadi Moubayed of the Melkite Marching Band Australia smiles as he holds a palm
FULL STORY A face of unity (The Catholic Weekly)