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Bishop John Wilson shares the highlights of Day 5. 

Day 5 began in Bethlehem with a visit to the Church of the Milk Grotto for Mass. This is a short walk from Manger Square and marks the site where, according to tradition, Our Lady nursed the Child Jesus on the way to Egypt. We recalled Mary’s motherliness and the sorrows she faced, remembering the devotion to the Seven Sorrows of Mary. In her own suffering, Our Lady is close to all mothers who are anxious for their children. 

Pilgrims outside Milk Grotto Church

Then in two groups we visited the School of Joy and St Martha’s Daycare Centre. The School of Joy educates and cares for children who are abandoned, orphaned or abused. Many of them also have behavioural or learning difficulties. The founder, Fr Mamdouh, explained that without the School the children would face life on the  streets. The children were happy and secure. We were able to share with them pens, pencils and crayons we had brought with us. The School is supported by the Friends of the Holy Land and parishes in our diocese and around the country.  

St Martha’s Daycare Centre provides support for widows in Bethlehem. It offers a place to meet, transport to get there, and practical and spiritual support. The women who attend live alone, their children having emigrated abroad to seek better opportunities. There are no pensions, and life is hard for them. The Centre is a lifeline in overcoming isolation and also provides, food, entertainment and access to healthcare. Again, this is supported by the Friends of the Holy Land and other groups in the UK. For elderly widows they were, nonetheless, very agile when it came to leading us in a traditional dance.

We then headed for the holy city of Jerusalem, pausing en route to pray for peace at the wall of separation. We arrived in Jerusalem in the dusk light of late afternoon and made our way to the Kotel, or the Western Wall. This is an ancient support wall of the Temple Mount and the holiest site for the Jewish people. It was a moving sight to see many Jewish men and women devoutly praying at the wall.

After arriving at our hotel, I went, with Fr Paul McDermott, our pilgrimage director, to visit the Latin Patriarchate, the Catholic Episcopal See of Jerusalem, and meet with Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa. We assured him of our prayers for him, and for the clergy, religious and laypeople in his jurisdiction which covers Cyprus, Israel, Jordan and Palestine. Please join with us in keeping them in your prayers, especially those in the Holy Land. 

Tomorrow we continue our pilgrimage in Jerusalem. Be sure of our prayers for everyone back home as we walk in the steps of the Lord Jesus following his Passion.  

Take a look at all the photos from Day 5 here.