Dear friends in Christ,
I was blessed to travel with my wife and 11 priests from my local Archdiocese of Perth to the Holy Land. The visit to the Holy Land was first to strengthen the priesthood and secondly to thank the priests in this year of the priests for the great sacrifices they make for God and for us. During the pilgrimage we experienced many things including an audience with the Latin Patriarch who truly is a humble servant of God. The words he said to us reminded me of the book Saalam Shalom which I was given by The Lord. In this book, which is a spiritual thriller, it is shown how the Christians suffer and one line came to mind from the book where a Catholic man stated we are like a forgotten part of the family. I pray that I and all Christians in the west will not forget them and will support them in prayer and when possible by visiting them in the Holy Land. I attach an article from one of the priests who came on the pilgrimage with a photo of our meeting with the Latin Patriarch Fouad Twal.
God bless you all,
The event was to enrich our priesthood in this Year of the Priest.
The eleven priests travelled with Alan and Katherine Ames who sponsored the pilgrimage.
The priest were: Frs Richard Rutkauskas, Emil Ciecierega, Yosep Asnabun, Ntuyen Chien, Nisham de Saram, Anthony Van Dyke, Kevin Cummins, Pedro Mascarenhas, Nicholas Nweka, Paul Raj and Douglas Harris.
Our guides: Karl-Heinz and Louisa Fleckenstein were excellent in terms of their commitment to us, their knowledge and their faith.
We were in Israel from Tuesday January 12th to Thursday January 21st 2010.
Day One included Gethsemene, the Room of the Last Supper and the Tomb of Mary. At the Pater Noster church we celebrated Mass. We were also treated to a meeting with the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, His Excellency Fouad Twal. (Photo attached)
Day Two included the re-enactment of the Stations along the Via Dolorosa carrying a cross. Each priest took turns in carrying the cross. Then to Calvary, the Holy Sepulchre and the Tomb of Adam. We had the great blessing of celebrating Mass in the Holy Sepulchre.
Day Three included visiting the site where Christ said Mass at Emmaus. At Emmaus in the Byzantine church remains we celebrated Mass. From there the home of St John the Baptist and the Church of the Visitation.
Day Four included the birthplace of Jesus where were blessed to celebrate Mass down in the actual cave grotto where Jesus was born. Then we visited the Milk Grotto where it is said milk from Our Blessed Mother, as she fed baby Jesus, fell to the ground, the white powder now found there has been responsible for thousands of miracles mostly for married couples who have been declared infertile. In the Milk Grotto Church is also a chapel of Perpetual Eucharistic Adoration which some of us took advantage of.
On this day we also visited a church containing the bones of the shepherds who first witnessed the baby Jesus.
Day Five a Sunday. We celebrated the regular Sunday Mass in a local church at Biet Jala which is the town next to Bethlehem. The church was packed with its parishioners.
We drove through the desert where Jesus spent 40 days and nights. We also saw the mountain where the devil took Him to tempt Him.
Then to Jericho, which included a sychamore tree like the one Zacchaeus the chief tax collector climbed. Also it was on this road to Jericho that Jesus set the scene for His parable about the Good Samaritan.
That evening we arrived at our hotel a kibbutz on the Sea of Galilee.
Day Six we went to the top of Mt Tabor to the church of the Transfiguration where we celebrated Mass. At the bottom of this mountain we went to the area where Jesus healed the possessed boy after His apostles could not heal him.
We passed the town of Nain where Jesus rose the dead boy, the only son of a widow and we saw the cliff or precipice that people from His own town tried to push Him over but "He alluded them because His time was not yet."
From there to Cana and the church of His first public miracle changing water into wine.
Finally, we visited the house of the Apostle St Bartholomew.
Day Seven the highlight was going to the site of the Annunciation which is now a magnificent Basilica run by the Franciscans. We celebrated Mass in the Basilica at the site where the Archangel appeared to Our Blessed Mother Mary. We then spent time in St Josephs house where the Holy Family may have lived.
We were also treated to a visit to a Fr Louis who is the parish priest of the parish of St John the Apostle in Nazareth Jaffa. We visited his school and were entertained by the children who sang and danced for us.
This Catholic School has students of all Christian denominations and Muslims. All the children live as friends of each other and have good relations with the Jewish school children nearby.
The last day we travelled by the Sea of Galilee. The highlight being Capernaum which today is known as the town of Jesus. We saw St Peters house, the Synagogue where Jesus gave the Eucharistic discourse, and the place where Jesus performed many miracles.
We celebrated Mass where Jesus initiated the Primacy of Peter as He asked him three times Do you love me? and then said to Peter feed my sheep.
Then we visited the church with the rock where Jesus multiplied five loaves of bread and two fish to feed 5000 men and 12 baskets of scraps were left over.
Next there was a visit to the church of the Beatitudes.
We also rode on a boat across part of the Sea of Galilee which was crewed by Messianic Jews who believe in Jesus.
Finally, we renewed our baptismal promises in the Jordan River.
All agreed the pilgrimage had deepened our understanding of the life of Our Lord and hope the fruits of this will be seen in our priestly ministry.
Fr. Doug Harris
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