Last Updated:

At the end of November, parishioners from across the Diocese joined Cardinal Vincent on the 10th Annual Diocesan Pilgrimage to the Holy Land, visiting for the first time since the start of the pandemic.

In his message for the pilgrims, the Cardinal spoke about how the end of the pandemic has not ushered in a time of stability and peace, rather it has been replaced by anxieties about financial stability. However, he wrote, ‘it is right to carry these concerns with us to the places of the footsteps of Jesus, for he continues to walk with us today, sharing our sufferings and our fears.’

The pilgrimage started by the Sea of Galilee, where Jesus began his ministry, with Mass and prayers. Our pilgrims shared their first impressions of this special place: 

At the shore of the lake Cardinal Vincent also spoke of what they had experienced that day: ‘We stood on the Mount of Olives and saw the triangle between Tabgha and Kafr Nahum and the Mount of Beatitudes. That triangle where Christianity was born, where Jesus called and formed his first disciples, and here are we 2000 years later, following with a similar joy and conviction and love for the Lord.’

The following day, our pilgrims visited areas around Nazareth. While they were in Cana, where those who were married renewed their commitment to each other and received a blessing. Our Marriage and Family Life Coordinator, Roger Carr-Jones has written a reflection, using this moment as a theme.

Our pilgrims also visited Nazareth’s Upper Basilica and Mount Tabor, the site of the Transfiguration of Jesus.

The next day saw our pilgrims visit to the Baptismal Site of St John in the middle of the Judean desert, where all present renewed their baptismal promises. They visited the monks who live in the desert, and shared their experiences:

Cardinal Vincent set the scene, saying ‘in the middle of the Judean desert, as people drift back to the coach, I can feel the beginning of the silence descend again, and it’s the silence which the monks who live in the monastery behind me must live day by day. It’s a silence which casts out the dross in our lives and leaves us just before God.’

On the way to Jerusalem, the group visited some sisters who work with the victims of human trafficking. This meeting was an opportunity to reflect that such things, which were happening at the time Jesus lived, continue to happen now and must be fought.

The final days were spent in and around Jerusalem, with Masses at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem and with the local parish in Bethlehem, the Stations of the Cross at the Via Dolorosa, and visits to Mount Zion and the Mount of Olives. While in Jerusalem, the group met with His Beatitude Pierbattista Pizzaballa, Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem.

At the conclusion of the pilgrimage, our pilgrims prayed this prayer: 

‘The sanctuaries that we have visited are a sign of that house not built with hands, namely, the Body of Christ, in which we are the living stones built upon Christ, the cornerstone. 

‘As we return home, let us live up to the vocation God has given us: to be a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people God claims for his own, so that we may everywhere proclaim the goodness of him who called us from darkness into his marvellous light.’

On his return, the Cardinal wrote a reflection on the call to discipleship in the Holy Land, originally sent to the clergy of the diocese. Read his Advent letter here.

Photos: Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem (Header), Vikki Bradney-Spencer (Body)