Hundreds of Christians and Muslims attended the Our Lady of Trapani procession in the Tunisian town of La Goulette this year.
The annual procession originated in the mid-19th century when La Goulette was home to tens of thousands of Sicilians, as well as Sephardic Jews, Maltese, Greeks and Spaniards.
In Italian popular culture, Our Lady of Trapani is the protector of the Italian city of Trapani in northwestern Sicily. She has been venerated by the immigrant Christian community of La Goulette since her arrival in the 16th century.
The procession was suspended in 1964 after Tunisia’s independence from France, but was revived in 2017.
Sicilian fishermen from La Goulette, a port district on the outskirts of Tunis, began the annual procession from the church to the sea to mark the feast of the Assumption on August 15 and pray for good fishing and protection in high sea.
The sailors lived among Muslims and Jews in a part of La Goulette nicknamed “Little Sicily”.
The festivities take place simultaneously in Trapani in the same way, but what distinguishes the Tunisian version is the diversity of the participants who, in addition to Christians, also include Muslims and Jews in Tunis. The latter even attend mass inside the church.
The Catholic Archbishop of Tunis, Ilario Antoniazzi, said such a procession would be “impossible” in other parts of the Maghreb region.
The 74-year-old, who has spent some 50 years in the region, said Muslim-majority Tunisia’s “respect” for people of other faiths is “an example for many Arab countries”.
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