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There had been a political dimension to the rosary processions in St. Paul as well. American Catholicism in the 1950s was staunchly anti-communist. It was no accident that our processions were held on May 1, the same day Russian communists held their annual May Day parade in Moscow’s Red Square. Our processions had a slight air of being a counter-demonstration against the communists and we explicitly prayed the rosary for the conversion of Russia.

I noticed a great spirit of celebration in the Jerusalem procession. This was particularly true for the young people of Jerusalem: if the statue of Mary had not been the focal point of their procession, one might have thought the streets were filled with youth simply out having a good time. I found their enjoyment appropriate: the Hebrew word the ancient Israelites used for celebrating a religious feast carried connotations of “enjoying themselves merrily,” in the words of one lexicon.

That I certainly witnessed as I watched the Catholics of Jerusalem celebrate the Feast of the Visitation. Their devotion to Mary was unmistakable, but so was their joy in making a public proclamation of their Catholic Palestinian identity.

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George Martin visits Jerusalem frequently.

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Tags: Jerusalem Palestine Catholic