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Melbourne Archdiocese finds its palms at the local zoo

Palm Cross

vetre | Shutterstock

J-P Mauro - published on 03/26/24

When St. Patrick's Cathedral found that its normal palm supplier had fallen through, they quickly struck up a unique arrangement with the Melbourne Zoo.

The Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne found themselves in dire straits as Palm Sunday approached, when they found that they could not source palms from their usual provider. The archdiocese quickly thought outside the box, and they shared their unique arrangement on social media. 

It is common Catholic knowledge that the ashes used on Ash Wednesday come from the previous year’s Palm Sunday palms. The palms are burned to create the ash that priests rub on our foreheads. While most know where the ashes come from, however, many may not know from where the palms are sourced. 

According to Catholic Online, each parish is responsible for arranging its own palm delivery, and there are palm farmers all around the world that cater to the needs of Catholics for this liturgy. The palms are hand picked to ensure a high quality and the methods employed protect the plants so that they can continue to grow after the palms are harvested. 

On the Melbourne Archdiocese’s Facebook page, the organizers explained that this year, the palm supplier for the Cathedral “fell through.” With limited options, the archdiocese was forced to think outside the box, and they came up with a novel idea: the local zoo. They got in contact with the Melbourne Zoo, which has an abundance of palms for its animal exhibits. In the post, parish office coordinator Julie wrote: 

“As far as I know, we’re the only church that Melbourne Zoo has supplied palms for. They’ve now committed to helping us with the palms for the next few years and one of their staff even said how excited they were to do so!”

While St. Patrick’s Cathedral is most likely the only church getting palms from the local zoo, it is not the only church that has had to get creative for lack of palms. Aleteia’s own Cerith Gardiner reports that, historically, substitutes for palms have been found in yew leaves in Ireland, olive branches in Mediterranean regions of Europe, and goat willow in some areas of Northern Europe. 

Read more about palm substitutions at Aleteia.

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