Canisius President John J. Hurley and his wife, Maureen, completed their pilgrimage to the Holy Land this weekend. On days six and seven, the group visited The Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem and the site of Jesus’ birth. They also made stops at Peter in Gallicantu, the dungeon in which Jesus was held by the high priest on Holy Thursday night; the Pool of Bethesda and the Western, or Wailing, Wall.
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Days 6 & 7 – Bethlehem and Jerusalem
Reflections from President Hurley
The final two days of our Holy Land pilgrimage book-ended the life of Jesus: his birth in Bethlehem and his death in Jerusalem before his Resurrection on Easter Sunday. Fr. Jim Martin observed that Jesus entered and left this world in the most vulnerable of states: birth in a lowly cave in Bethlehem and death on a cross.
The Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem is a noisy, bustling shrine, made more so by extensive restoration and repairs that are underway under the supervision of Bethlehem’s Palestinian government. You are able to venerate the exact place where Jesus was born and also the place where he was placed in the manger, which is not the stable (a creation of St. Francis of Assisi), but is actually a cave.
The purpose of our trip was religious and we intentionally avoided getting into the difficult political dynamics of Israel and the Middle East, but the wall that has been built around Palestinian-controlled Bethlehem is a stark reminder of the elusiveness of peace. The experience served to intensify our prayers each day for a true, just and lasting peace in the Holy Land.
Our final day was a whirlwind trip through many famous sites in Jerusalem: We prayed the Stations of the Cross and carried the cross on the Via Dolorosa. We celebrated Mass at Crucifixion Chapel in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. We visited Peter in Gallicantu, the dungeon in which Jesus was held by the high priest on Holy Thursday night; we prayed at the site of the Upper Room; we saw the Pool of Bethesda, the site of the healing of the paralytic in John’s Gospel; and we made a final stop at the Western, or Wailing, Wall where we were able to pray with our Jewish brethren.
In walking through this ancient holy city, you are struck by the tremendous diversity. The narrow, almost claustrophobic streets of the city are home to hundreds and hundreds of shops offering Jewish, Christian and Muslim wares. Observant Jews with prayer shawls and young children in tow were out on Saturday making their way to temple and back home again. The Arab music of the shopkeepers on the Via Dolorosa merges with our own chant of “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” The prayers at the Wailing Wall are joined with the hauntingly beautiful call to prayer from the Muslim Quarter.
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