Pilgrimages

Holy Land Day 4: Bethlehem and Jerusalem

Bishop John writes:

At the end of the day, it is important to recognise that day 4 of our pilgrimage was a day of powerful and emotional contrasts. There was profound joy during the visit to St Martha’s, a day centre for widows in Bethlehem, who have little means of support and are often isolated and alone. Dancing and prayers in English and Arabic were shared as well as the common experience of dancing. Tears were shed as we were welcomed and enjoyed hospitality and shared some simple gifts.

Later in the day there was a marked feeling of powerlessness and vulnerability as we stood by the Wall of Separation and prayed. Fr John commented that Pope Francis had said peace would only be built by bridges not walls. We grieved over how communities and families are separated by this illegal wall as well as people and their land. We read stories of pain and suffering and learnt how the wall extends beyond the historical Green Line deep into the West Bank.

In St Catherine's Church, Bethlehem the celebration of Christmas and the song of the angels proclaiming peace to all people helped us to find hope in this situation and renewed our earnest prayer of intercession.   

The calm of the Milk Grotto and the peace of the Chapel of Adoration contrasted with the bustle of the streets of Jerusalem on a Saturday evening. 

We made our way to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre to visit the tomb and pray there, a moment of peace and joy after the rather disorientating experience of queueing for an hour and being rushed into the tomb. Many experienced a deep sense of faith and trust in the Risen Christ who can carry us and lead us as we walk with him. In the courtyard Fr Paul called us to prayer and we gave thanks to God for having the opportunity to come to Jerusalem and visit the holy sites and the Body of Christ present in these lands.

Tired but fulfilled we quickly settled into the peace of the Knights Hotel. Then 85 young French people full of enthusiasm and lively songs arrived and enjoyed the evening!