October 25th is the feast day of Our Lady Queen of Palestine. What is the history of this title of Mary and how can we unite in prayer to her for those who live in the Holy Land, both on her feast day and going forward?
Her Title as Queen of Palestine
Our Lady was first invoked under this title by the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem as he entered the Cathedral Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre and consecrated the diocese to Mary on July 15, 1920. He asked her protection over the homeland of the Holy Family because of the ancient and growing tensions that had been threatening its people for generations.
He established this titular feast in her native land in 1927, wrote a special prayer for recitation before the Blessed Sacrament, and erected a church in her honor. The Holy See approved the feast day for the liturgical calendar in a decree asking the faithful to pray to Our Lady as Queen of Palestine for protection over the Holy Land.
A Brief History Lesson
Though the cycle of violence in the Holy Land has exploded with a fury in these last few weeks, many of us know little about the history of this place where Our Lord was born, died, and rose again to glory.
The Holy Land has always been sacred for Jews and Christians, both of whom wanted to protect its rich history. They managed to live together there until sometime in the 6th century when Muslim claims on the holy sites complicated that dynamic.
In 614, Persian Muslims conquered Jerusalem, destroying many of the holy sites of the Jewish and Christian people, including the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, where Our Lady would one day be invoked as Queen of Palestine.
Persia stole the True Cross during the war and possessed it until the Roman Emperor Heraclius I reinstituted Byzantine rule in Jerusalem and recovered the Cross of Christ in 629. Only nine years later, the Muslims conquered Jerusalem again. Then after 500 years of Arab rule, the first Crusade restored Christianity to Jerusalem in 1099.
Almost 200 years of war with the Muslims followed, until the Holy Roman Emperor and King of Sicily, Frederick II, led the sixth Crusade and vowed to reclaim Jerusalem and the rest of the Holy Land. At this same time, the Franciscan Order established itself in Jerusalem. The Pope made the Franciscans the custodians of the holy places.
After the first Crusade, its leader, Godfrey of Boullion, Duke of Lower Lorraine in France, founded the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem to defend the Holy Sepulchre and Christians in the Holy Land. The Order still exists today, has its own Constitutions, and is governed by canon law.
Pope St. John Paul II & Regina Palaestinae
In 1983, Pope St. John Paul II addressed an audience of Knights and Dames of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre, exhorting them to continue their work in the Holy Land under the protection of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Later, the Grand Master of the Order wrote the pope, requesting that he name Mary Queen of Palestine as the official patroness of the Order. The pope issued the decree in 1994.
The work of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem has evolved over time. It no longer involves the physical protection carried out by the knights of old. This important institution of the Vatican State now provides for the material needs of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem and financially supports initiatives that aid Holy Land Christians.
The Order financed a large portion of Our Lady Queen of Palestine's shrine. The Knights and Dames of the Order strive to sustain and aid charitable, cultural, and social works to benefit those living in the Holy Land.
Under the Protection of Mary
Despite the ever-present political battles, upheaval, pain, and persecution, Christians in the region see their homeland as sacred because it is the land of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. As Mary was the heart of the Holy Family, she is also the heart of this sacred region for Christians who seek protection and peace.
From their patroness, Our Lady Queen of Palestine, they draw these graces and the many more needed for their difficult lives of persecution and their daily survival among people who can be hostile to what they believe.
Bishop Barlassina, who originally gave Mary this title, built the Shrine of Our Lady Queen of Palestine in Deir Rafat, midway between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. Sacred Scripture places some of the activities of Samson, the last Judge of ancient Israel, in this area.
It is a place dear to the Christians of the Holy Land. On the last Sunday in October, thousands gather every year for the titular feast of Our Lady Queen of Palestine, honoring her and asking her protection over her native land and their own. The date of the feast on the liturgical calendar is October 25th.
About Her Shrine in the Holy Land
In addition to the important name day celebration, activities such as welcoming pilgrims, teaching catechism to children, celebrating Mass, and other apostolates make the church a beloved place of worship for Holy Land Christians. Nuns from the Monastic Family of Bethlehem ensure the presence of Adoration and prayer at the shrine.
A Palestinian artist decorated the ceiling and walls of the shrine. At the request of the Patriarch, he painted angels of the Lord holding ribbons which exclaim the angelic salutation of the Archangel Gabriel to our Blessed Mother in 280 different languages. This represents the great desire and fervent prayer for people of all faiths and nations to live in unity in this holy place.
To the left of the nave, a Franciscan nun painted an image of Our Lady blessing the Holy Land from Mt. Carmel to Jerusalem, as angels present her a scepter and crown.
On top of the church stands a graceful statue twenty feet tall. Our Lady looks out upon her children of all nations and diverse backgrounds, protectively extending one hand in blessing while holding the other to her heart.
The shrine invites those of all faiths to quiet, solace, and prayer. As diverse pilgrims gaze overhead, finding the greeting of the Archangel Gabriel in their native language, the fervent hope is that they whisper a prayer for the same peace.
Today in Palestine
The ancient cycle of violence that has killed so many in the Holy Land exploded again on October 7th, 2023, and the evil forces of destruction and vengeance have shattered the lives of the Israelis and Palestinians living there.
For this land to be one of justice, peace, security, and reconciliation, let us unite together in prayer to Our Lady Queen of Palestine.
Will you join us at The Catholic Company in praying the prayer to the Patroness of the Holy Land written by Patriarch Barlassina?
Together, let us pray for the people in the Holy Land and ask Our Lady to bring peace, comfort, and healing to all innocent people suffering in our world today.
We invite you to pray for the end of all violence and the surrender of arms. May our prayers embrace every human being who is threatened, mistreated, injured, or displaced by war and violence in our world. May our prayers gain grace for all souls who lost their lives to the violence.
Please join us in a cry for peace in the land of Christ and Our Lady. On October 25th, feast of Our Lady of Palestine, we ask you to pray with us.
Consider lighting a candle that day in your home or parish, as a symbol that the light still shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
May Our Lady Queen of Palestine protect all of her children, and may she inspire and guide world and religious leaders in their quest for peace, especially in this, her homeland, chosen by God.
"For the Lord has chosen Zion; he has desired it. This is my resting place forever; here I will dwell, for I have desired it." Psalm 132:13-14
Prayer to Our Lady Queen of Palestine
O Mary Immaculate, gracious Queen of Heaven and of Earth,
behold us prostrate before thy exalted throne.
Full of confidence in thy goodness and in thy boundless power,
we beseech thee to turn a pitying glance upon Palestine,
which more than any other country belongs to thee,
since thou hast graced it with thy birth, thy virtues and thy sorrows,
and from there hast given the Redeemer to the world.
Remember that there especially, thou wert constituted our tender Mother,
the dispenser of graces.
Watch, therefore, with special protection over thy native country,
scatter from it the shades of error,
for it was there the Sun of Eternal Justice shone.
Bring about the speedy fulfilment of the promise,
which issued from the lips of Thy Divine Son,
that there should be one fold and one Shepherd.
Obtain for us all that we may serve the Lord
in sanctity and justice during the days of our life,
so that, by the merits of Jesus
and with thy motherly aid,
we may pass at last from this earthly Jerusalem
to the splendors of the heavenly one.
Our Lady, Queen of Palestine, pray for all those in the lands made sacred by your Son's birth, life, death, and Resurrection.