THE Queensland World Youth Day pilgrimage landed in Istanbul on the Feast of St Dominic on August 5.
After a brief tour of this ancient and fascinating city we prepared to follow in the footsteps of St Paul last Sunday.
Burdened with no greater problems than upset stomachs and the occasional lost luggage, the four bishops and 85 pilgrims set out on an emotional visit to Gallipoli. Joined by an even greater number of pilgrims from New Zealand and Perth they celebrated Mass on the hillside overlooking Anzac Cove.
Led by Bishop Bill Morris of Toowoomba, the pilgrims prayed for the repose of the souls of those young servicemen from Australia, New Zealand and Turkey who 90 years earlier fought and died on these rugged hillsides for the freedom enjoyed today.
Tombstones scattered across the hillside marked only a small proportion of those who lie there, most of them as young as the pilgrims who saluted their heroism and generosity on that overcast Sunday.
It was entirely appropriate that the distant relations of those who suffered and died 90 years earlier should now join in prayer, not as brothers in arms, but as brothers and sisters in prayer asking for the repose of their souls.
The celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ on this distant hillside added a dimension of hope to the suffering that had gone before and was a fitting backdrop to St Paul’s theology of the Body of Christ they would ponder in the coming days.
Certainly this emotional day of hope was a good preparation for the resurrection of Christ that would be proclaimed even more strongly in Cologne by Pope Benedict XVI whom they look forward to meeting for the very first time.
ON August 7, 200 young Australians and New Zealanders celebrated Sunday Mass with a number of bishops and priests from both countries in the war cemetery at Anzac Cove.
We had already walked the beach and prayed at the graves.
Many noticed how many were killed on the same day 90 years ago.
I was particularly moved by the grave of a young 19 year-old from the 10th Australian Light Horse Regiment who fell and died on August 7, 1915.
Our Queensland pilgrims, including 12 from Townsville, filled two buses and continually crossed the path of the bus of Western Australians and the two New Zealand groups throughout the day.
At Anzac Cove we met as we had 90 years ago, but this time the Turks were our friends and even extended to us the exceptional privilege of celebrating a Mass with such a large group in the cemetery.
It was a special experience to hear the story of the first Anzac Day told to us by our Muslim Turkish guide whose great-grandfather had fought in the Dardanelles.
He told it with sensitivity and great respect for the brave men of both sides who died there.
This was day two of our pilgrimage.
The day before we had visited places holy to Muslims and to Christians in Istanbul.
The great “museum” of Hagia Sophia, once the greatest church in the Christian world, and then a mosque, is now again revealing its Christian past as archaeologists peel back the plaster placed over the Christian mosaics when it was converted into a mosque.
There is something very expressive of our contemporary world in the beautiful mosaic of Mary and the Christ child seen in the midst of the Islamic decoration, and the huge suspended quotations from the Koran.
It was in this church as well that the second great Council of Constantinople was held which gave shape to the faith of the Christian Church, and some of the major religious conflicts between Eastern and Western Christians occurred.
Last Monday we began our journey “in the footsteps of St Paul”, already challenged and inspired by the Christian and Muslim history of this extraordinary part of the world and the special gift that Gallipoli gives to all Australians.
We are very grateful to all at home who made this pilgrimage possible.
We will pray for you in our holy places and remember you with gratitude in Cologne at World Youth Day.
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