Indian Ecumenical Delegation Visits Holy Land

Anthony charanghat and fr. jayaseelan ofm (fr. jai)
Pic: Ms.Dafna Tal

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The Ministry of Tourism of Israel invited an ecumenical delegation of Church leaders from India to begin the season of Lent in the Holy Land. The delegation included His Eminence Cardinal Oswald Gracias, CBCI President, His Beatitude Cardinal Mar George Alencherry Major Archbishop of Ernakulam-Angamaly, Most Rev. Dr Soosa Pakiam Metropolitan Archbishop of Trivandrum, Most Rev. Filipe Neri Ferrao, Patriarch of the East Indies and Archbishop of Goa and Daman, His Grace Johnson Mathai, Malankara Metropolitan, Church of South India and the Right Rev Godwin Nag, President of UELCI, Bishop United Evangelical Lutheran Churches in India, along with their priest-secretaries.

They were welcomed after their arrival from Tel Aviv’s Ben-Gurion airport at David’s Citadel Hotel by representatives of the Ministry of Tourism, Mr Oren Drori, Sr. Deputy Director, Mr Uri Sharon, Ms Na’ama Orien and Mr Albert Ben-Abu. The programme comprises a six-day pilgrimage to the various holy and religious sites in the city of Jerusalem like Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Via Dolorosa, retracing the footsteps of Christ during His Passion, Death and Resurrection. Other historical and religious sites would include Mount Zion, the Upper Room, the Dormition Church, the Wailing Wall, etc.

Indian Ecumenical Delegation Visits Holy Land
They called on Very Rev.Fr.Pierbatista Pizzaballa, the Custos of the Holy Land at his Curia at St.Saviours Monastery, Jerusalem.  His Paternity Custos of the  Holy Land briefed them about the Christianity in General and the different christian communities that co-exists together with other communities. He also detailed the present state of Christian faithful in the Holy land etc. They discussed extensively about the Christian Pilgrims from India  and how the Custody of the Holy land and the Ministry of Tourism of Israel could help Indian pilgrims make better spiritual and fruitful pilgrimages etc.

This will give us a bird’s eye-view of the history and geography of the holy places and emphasise the spiritual dimension of these aspects that give a tangible experience to our faith. Also slated in the programme for the remaining days are a drive to the Judean Desert where Christ was tempted, the traditionally believed Good Samaritan site on the way to Jericho, and onwards to the River Jordan where Christ was baptised. Besides, there would be the Eucharist being celebrated at the chapel next to the Upper Room, the Church of All Nations at Gethsemane and other significant churches dedicated to our Lady and St Joseph.  

Indian Ecumenical Delegation Visits Holy Land

Both the Cardinals thanked the Government officials for giving them the opportunity of this unique spiritual experience to visit the sites that are central to the three major monotheistic religions — Jews, Muslims and Christians spanning over 3000 years. They said that the Scriptures came alive as they visited these places on the first two days, and felt a renewal and deepening of their faith. They were edified by the spirit of prayer that people of all faiths manifested and the yearning for peace that somehow, mysteriously contributed to the pervading atmosphere of peace of the place, despite the anxieties of conflict and difficulties that exist.

Indian Ecumenical Delegation Visits Holy Land

They underlined that the spiritual dimension of the pilgrimage which is experiencing the living presence of God and the need for His power, grace and strength to transform our lives must be maintained as uppermost, if the magnetic tapestry of attracting millions of hearts and souls of pilgrims were to be realised. They expressed the great joy and satisfaction that this aspect of religious tourism is being fostered and promoted by the various religious custodians of these holy sites along with the collaboration of the representatives of the Ministry of Tourism. They were highly appreciative of these efforts and were inspired to recommend these spiritually uplifting visits to the Christians under their charge as it would help to renew, deepen their faith and live it in an articulate manner.


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