The Custody of the Holy Land and Belgium are connected with a close bond, reinforced every year by a tradition. On the day of their national holiday, the Custody of the Holy Land celebrates a mass in honor of the Belgian king in the presence of the Belgian Consul General in Jerusalem. And so it was this year as well, on November 12, as per tradition, at the Church of St. Savior in Jerusalem. “The four consuls of France, Belgium, Italy and Spain are referred to as the Catholic consuls and have the privilege of having a special mass said for their national holidays,” explained Fr. Stéphane Milovitch, who celebrated the liturgy. The Custody makes this gesture as a sign of gratitude for the past and present work of the four nations that protect Christian communities.
The homily at mass, with Sunday’s ordinary readings, was said by Fr. Christian Eeckhout, a Dominican of the Ecole Biblique. “The mass today emphasized an important point in the first reading: wisdom,” said Fr. Christian. “If you have wisdom, you will find God and you will be happy. Then, in the second reading, St. Paul said that we need patience and to keep the faith.” The Dominican priest then went on to comment on the Gospel: “In the Gospel we read the parable of the virgins waiting for the bridegroom. The young women are not ready to wait so long. And neither are we, but if we do not have oil for the lamps, we will not see [the bridegroom] because there is no light. And God is Light.”
The date for the mass in honor of the Belgian dynasty is November 15. “November 15 was also the feast day of St. Leopold, who is the patron saint chosen by King Leopold II in the nineteenth century,” said Father Christian Eeckhout. “The king wished for the freedom of religion and the continued Christian presence.” The Dominican priest also explained that every year on this occasion, the Custody hosts the day of prayer that Belgium does for the Holy Land.
Danielle Haven, Belgium’s general consul, who arrived here in August with a four-year term, after specifically requesting to be sent to the Holy Land, commented on the event. “I thank the Custody of the Holy Land,” she said. “Belgium is one of the four Latin nations that has the duty to protect the holy places and thus we have a close relationship with the Custody. We are happy to be here today, and the mass was an honor.”