Every 26 December, the French flag flies over the St. Stephen’s Basilica of Jerusalem.
On this day, the Dominicans of Jerusalem celebrate Saint Stephen the “protomartyr”, the first martyr, whose execution is said to have taken place on the site where the basilica’s atrium now stands.
As tradition, the solemn mass is celebrated in the presence of the Consul General of France in Jerusalem. This year, he was represented by Quentin Lopinot, Deputy Consul General.
Stephen, the first Christian martyr, gave his life for truth, justice and peace. Along with six other early disciples of Jesus, he was one of the first deacons of the Church.
A servant of the nascent Church, he has been venerated since the 5th century in the place of the present-day basilica. The first basilica dedicated to Saint Stephen was built by the empress Eudocie in 415, then ruined when the city was sacked by the Persians. Fifteen centuries passed before the basilica was rebuilt in 1892, thanks to a firman issued by the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire, Abd el-Hamid II.
The Mass was presided over by Prior Martin Staszak, OP, who preached as follows:
“In two days, we celebrated Christmas and the first martyrdom. The proximity of these two feasts is not insignificant. Each says to man what he cannot say to himself, but what God says to him. The folly of the manger, like that of the cross, contradicts the logic of this world. The Son of Man came into a world that did not want him. Then, as now, he comes into a world that is torn. (…) To celebrate this means that we believe and trust in God”.
Mass was followed by a sit-down meal with the consul, members of the household and a few guests.