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Friday, October 27, 2006

Our first day on the ground in Jerusalem. It is quiet here—peaceful and friendly. No one ever saw anything to alarm them or to even hint at troubles. Everyone commented over and over again that what they saw here is NOT what they see on the sensationalist news media.

We started the day with Mass on Calvary—imagine that! Mass at the very geographical location where Jesus was stripped of his clothes, nailed to the cross and raised up to experience the most gruesome form of execution ever devised. Many people wept, including Fr. Gerald as he struggled through the Mass. It was moving and life changing for pilgrims.

After breakfast at Notre Dame Center we drove through the check point into the Palestinian town of Bethlehem. It too was very quiet, friendly and peaceful. We shopped at the quality Christian shop called The Nissan Brothers. This shop and restaurant support 67 Christian families in Bethlehem. Christians are the persecuted minority and only make up 1-2% of the population.

Next we visited Shepherd’s Field where the angels announce the birth of Jesus to the shepherds. Why shepherds? Because shepherds are always the first to know about the birth of a lamb.

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The Church of the Nativity where Jesus was born is always a highlight of any pilgrimage. To reach your hand through the 14 pointed star to touch the ground level in the cave of His birth is always toughing. We took pictures of everyone as they knelt at this spot. We also saw the tomb of St. Jerome and the Church of St. Catherine of Alexandria where the Christmas Mass is televised each Christmas.

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After lunch in Bethlehem we drove back to Jerusalem and visited Mount Zion. We started in the Church of the Dormition where Mary fell asleep. Here I did a short talk on the Assumption. Then on to the Upper Room to discuss the institution of the priesthood, the Eucharist, the Sacrament of Reconciliation and the day of Pentecost. Right below is the Tomb of David.

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Down the hill we visited the Church of St. Peter in Gallicantu where Jesus was tried by the High Priest Caiaphas and where Peter denied Jesus three times. It was here that Jesus was imprisoned on Holy Thursday and we went into the deep prison and read Psalm 88. Everyone walked on the old Roman Steps which we know Jesus himself walked on.

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One of the very special events of this pilgrimage was the invitation from the Latin Patriarch Michel Sabbah to visit him in the Latin Patriarchate in the Old City. We were presented to the Patriarch . We had a couple with who are a Knight and Lady of the Equestrian Knights of the Holy Sepulchre. (Janet and I are also a Knight and a Lady, see picture.) This couple received their Shell from the Patriarch for having visited the Holy Land.

After dinner at the Inbal Hotel we had an animated discussion of the Israeli – Palestinian situation. I put up a map to explain the geography and then explained both sides: Israeli and Palestinian. A very lively discussion followed and everyone found it very helpful to understand better what they hear every day on the news.

We crashed into bed exhausted.