By editor - 10 September, 2016
An eight-day pilgrimage of solidarity to the Holy Land is underway led by the Primate of All Ireland, Archbishop Eamon Martin, who is accompanied by 177 pilgrims from Ireland.
The pilgrimage will have a particular focus on demonstrating solidarity with the local Christian community which has been diminishing in numbers in recent decades.
The pilgrimage set out from Dublin Airport on Friday and the itinerary includes visits to sites associated with the earthly life of Christ.
Speaking ahead of the pilgrimage Archbishop Eamon said, “I am glad to be part of this pilgrimage of prayerful solidarity to the Holy Land. Our presence with God’s people there is much appreciated. It reminds them that they are not forgotten and it brings to the gloom of their suffering a glimpse of Easter hope and joy.”
Archbishop Eamon continued, “Many of the Christians in the Holy Land feel isolated, alone and discouraged. They are fearful of being neglected or even forgotten by their brothers and sisters in other parts of the world.”
“They have asked for our support and our pilgrimage is a tangible expression of our solidarity at this time of their suffering which has come about from persecution because of their faith, and by social and economic marginalisation.”
During the course of the pilgrimage, which will be based around the Sea of Galilee, Bethlehem and Jerusalem, Archbishop Martin will lead pilgrims in meeting local Christian representatives including the Mayor of Bethlehem, Ms Vera Baboun, and Bishop William Shomali of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem.
Archbishop Martin explained, “Our pilgrimage has a unique character – we come in prayerful solidarity with the Christian community in the Holy Land. They call themselves the ‘living stones’ of the Holy Land – unlike some of the crumbling buildings and ruins which we will see during the pilgrimage.”
It is hoped that the pilgrimage would be the beginning of a series of such trips that will bring more and more Irish people to this historic region.
One way to offer both practical and material support to the local communities is the twinning of Irish parishes with parishes in the Holy Land.