Jerusalem Carmelites live where Jesus once prayed
"It is different here. We are respected. When a fellow nun from Lebanon died, Muslim neighbors even brought flowers."
By Oliver Maksan
to our new reception room;” Sister Agathe offered her visitor a warm greeting.
The nun is in charge of finances for the Carmelite Sisters’ convent on the Mount
of Olives in Jerusalem. Substantial renovations were just completed. Everything
is clean and bright.
renovations help us to receive guests better, while at the same time protecting
our enclosure,” the young French woman said. “After all, we usually do not
leave the convent. However, many people come to us. We are deeply grateful to
our benefactors and we can thank them best through our prayers.”
convent, built in 1874, is the oldest in the Holy Land. Numerous
pilgrims visit the sanctuary every day to worship at the site where, according
to tradition, Jesus taught his disciples the Lord’s Prayer. The walls are
covered with elaborate panels featuring the text of the prayer in numerous
The convent is
located—on the premises of the Pater Noster Church—in the Arab and predominantly
Muslim eastern part of Jerusalem. Said the nun: “Time and again, it moves me
deeply to think about just how sacred Jerusalem is to the beliefs of so many.
We can hear the muezzin’s call to prayer here, but also the sounds of the bar
mitzvah celebrations of the Jews. How dearly we wish that justice and peace
The nuns get
along well with the Muslims in the neighbourhood. “In France, we nuns are
looked at strangely when we go out into the streets in our habits. It is
different here. We are respected. When a fellow nun from Lebanon died, Muslim
neighbours even brought flowers,” Sister Agathe reported.
despite the high walls surrounding the convent, the reality of the Holy Land,
which is often marked by violence and hatred, affects the lives of the nuns as
well. “Time after time, tensions soar between the Israelis and Palestinians
here in this area. Then, the stones start flying directly in front of our door.
This of course affects us deeply. After all, we love Jerusalem and the Holy Land.
Through our prayers, we want to serve peace in the Holy Land.”
nuns not only pray for the Holy Land. “We are here at the very heart of the
church. Therefore, we pray for the major concerns of the Church and the Pope,”
said Sister Agathe. The concerns of the pilgrims, however, are also treated
with reverence. “Visitors from all over the world leave small notes with their
intentions in the grotto where Christ prayed together with the Apostles. We
make note of these. Then, once a month, a priest celebrates a Mass for them,” she
from all over the world live in the convent. “That is a good number. We
primarily attract international candidates. However, we would like to have more
nuns from the region,” the nun said, adding “we hope that the canonization of
our fellow nun Mariam Baouardy from Palestine, which took place last May, will
draw renewed attention to us in the Holy Land.”
Pater Noster Carmelite Monastery; ACN photo