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Exploring Homeland of Christ

THE World Youth Day pilgrimage will live on in the hearts and minds of those who took part. Leader correspondent VIRGINIA VAN DER MEER describes the events on the road to Rome in the second part of her special report.

Days 8 -10

We continued exploring Jerusalem, visiting so many holy places that it’s hard to distinguish on which day we visited which, but they were all incredible experiences. We visited St Peter’s where Jesus was held overnight and the ancient stairs he would have walked to his sentencing. Sitting in that dungeon, you could really feel Jesus’ agony.

We travelled back into Bethlehem for a Mass with all the other Australian groups travelling through the Holy Land. We certainly let Bethlehem know Australia had arrived.

We explored within the city walls, the Dome of the Rock or Mt Morias, the Wailing Wall, the upper room where the Last Supper took place and the tomb of David.

We walked over the Mount of Olives to the place where Jesus wept and down into the Garden of Gethsemane where we celebrated Mass in the Grotto.

We visited the Church of St Anne, and heard voices of angels – little French nuns anyway. We continued practising our bartering skills at the markets on camel shoes and other souvenirs.

We walked the stations of the cross. We travelled through those busy Jerusalem streets, just as Jesus would to the cries of “falafel”, “postcards” to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre where Jesus was crucified

and buried. We walked into the tomb and touched the very spot where he was crucified.

We learnt the language of the streets and how to know when to speak Arabic and when to speak Hebrew.

As much as we all wanted to stay longer in Jerusalem, all good things must come to an end

Days 10 – 14

Another day of travelling ahead of us, but not without a few special treats on the way.

We stopped at Emmaus, where Jesus appeared to the two apostles and a huge Roman theatre at Caesarea Philippi. We also wet our feet in the Mediterranean. We stopped at Mt Carmel to celebrate Mass and at Stella Maris on the way.

On to the Sea of Galilee where we stayed at the Ha’On Kibbutz, right on the shore. We spent the mornings exploring the area, Tiberias, and the shocking banking systems; Nazareth, where Jesus grew up; and Capernaum, where most of his ministry and miracles took place.

We visited the primacy of St Peter and the site of the miracle of the loaves and fishes. We celebrated Mass on the Mount of Beatitudes and you could just picture the thousands gathering to listen to Jesus.

We visited Cana and tried some wine, then took a ride on a Jesus boat but were unable to catch any fish. We shut off the engines and drifted across the sea, and participated in a short liturgy. We jumped off at the other side of the lake where an actual 2000 year old boat was kept.

Most afternoons were spent at the kibbutz, taking some well earned rest, playing the occasional game of volleyball/touch/netball, but most of all bathing in the sometimes too warm waters of Galilee. No one was ready to leave. We had all experienced the most remarkable things, but we had to finish our pilgrimage, and the only way we could do that was to go to the place where Catholicism started – Rome.

Day 14

We headed for Tel Aviv and were able to stop for a short while to soak up the atmosphere and buy some lunch before arriving at the airport The first challenge was getting through customs, speaking only when you were spoken to, opening backpacks for inspection and generally being aware.

But all was hassle-free and we boarded yet another plane bound for Milan, then Rome. We arrived late that night and were taken to our accomodation – whatever that was going to be was anyone’s guess. We ended up at a kindergarten at Acilia, laid our sleeping bags on a cold, hard floor, and those who were game, tried the freezing cold outdoor showers. That’s right, we were officially pilgrims and we were reminded of that every day.

Written by: Staff writers
Catholic Church Insurance

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