Holy Land Pilgrimage, An Introduction


“Thus says the Lord of hosts: Peoples shall yet come, even the inhabitants of many cities. The inhabitants of one city shall go to another, saying, ‘Let us go at once to entreat the favor of the Lord and to seek the Lord of hosts; I myself am going.’ Many peoples and strong nations shall come to seek the Lord of hosts in Jerusalem and to entreat the favor of the Lord.”

-Zachariah 8:20-22

Twenty-some of the pilgrims having an audience with His Excellency, Giacinto-Boulos Marcuzzo, Vicar for Jerusalem at the Latin Patriarchate in Jerusalem. (Photo courtesy of the LP Pilgrimages facebook page)

The hubbie and I went on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land.  We left for Tel Aviv on November 24 and came back to the US on December 4.  Before I lay out to you, my lovies, all the beautiful places we went to, I think I have to give you a backgrounder about the nature of the pilgrimage and the people behind it. In fact, this will give you a better idea on why we went to some of the places we visited.

To begin with, we went on a pilgrimage and not a tour.  What’s the difference?  A tour is a trip for pleasure to different places.  On the other hand, a pilgrimage is a journey to locations of religious importance enhancing one’s spiritual faith.  Indeed, the pilgrimage totally deepened us spiritually.

His Excellency, Bishop Marcuzzo, with our pilgrimage manager, LeAnn Brand and our pastor, Fr. Alphonse Olive. (Photo courtesy of LP Pilgrimage’s facebook page)

Our troop of 31 “pilgrims” was lead by the kindest Rev. Fr. Alphonse Olive, C.SS.R. Even in his prime age of 84, Fr. Olive is sharp and very knowledgeable.  Suprisingly, he still can muster climbing the steep stairs of Mt. Temptation (all 139 steps of it). That isn’t a small feat knowing how high that shrine was!  With us also is our guide, Sami Grayeb, an exceptional teacher of the Holy Land’s history.  He could connect the events written in the bible with the culture, the terrain and the people.  The whole pilgrimage was made more meaningful because of all the insights we learned from him.  Lastly, we have Ms. LeAnn Brand, the USA Sales Manager of the L.P. Pilgrimages.  She coordinated all the details and patiently shepherded us thru the whole tour.  And when I say “patiently” she had so much of it for us all.  I love this woman!

We toured with L.P. Pilgrimages. The L.P. Pilgrimages is an international inbound and outbound tour operator born within the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem.  The Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem is the Catholic episcopal see (the area of a bishop’s ecclesiastical jurisdiction) of Jerusalem.  The Very Reverend, Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa, OFM, is the Apostolic Administrator of the Latin Church Catholics of the Catholic Archdiocese of Jerusalem.  The Latin Patriarchate has jurisdiction for all Latin Catholics in Israel, the Palestinian territories, Jordan and Cyprus.  Thus, the head of the Patriarchate of Jerusalem also holds the office of Grand Prior of the Order of the Holy Sepulchre. (Wikipedia)  The Latin Patriarchate is a direct subject of the Holy See (the Pope).

Our troop at the staircase leading to the entrance of the Latin Patriarchate (Photo courtesy of the LP Pilgrimages facebook page)

Now, a clincher.  It came as a shock to me that the Holy Land, the birthplace of Jesus Christ and the birthplace of the whole Christianity, has only 2.0% Christians. In fact, this small percentage of Christians is shared by Catholics, Protestants, Orthodoxes and other Christian faiths.  (Read about it here.)

I know you ask, “why are there not many Christians where Jesus was from?” After listening to Sami and to Father Olive, I learned that the circumstances surrounding the belief in Jesus hasn’t really changed from 2000 years ago.  During Jesus’ time and the immediate years after his death and resurrection, there was just a small number of faithfuls and disciples, including Jesus’ apostles.

Despite all the miracles and teaching Jesus did, not a lot of people in the Holy Land believed He is the Son of God. Yes, Christianity in the whole world has grown in leaps and bounds.  Christianity, by far, is the largest religion in the world. Statistically, about 3.1 billion people (nearly a third of the world population) believe that He is the Messiah and the Savior.  On the contrary, there are only 169,000 Christians in the Holy Land. That doesn’t even count for 1% of the world’s Christian population.

The hall where we were welcomed in by Bishop Marcuzzo. This is the same hall where they host the Popes who visit Jerusalem. (Hubbie is at the Bishop’s right 🙂  (Photo courtesy of the LP Pilgrimages facebook page)

Historically, Islam has displaced Christianity throughout the Middle East. To add to that, the rise of modern Zionism plus the formation of the State of Israel has brought millions of Jews emigrating to Israel.

What happened to the Christians in the Holy Land? There are a few reasons for their exodus to other lands and countries:

  • The Israeli/Palestinian conflict, which affects Arab Christians as much as Arab Muslims;
  • The difficulty for the Christians to establish a means of livelihood. They are not given as much opportunity, mainly because of their religion
  • The rise of Islamic fundamentalism
  • The more affluent and educated Christians would choose to emigrate when the opportunity for them to do so arises.

For this reason, the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem came up with LP Pilgrimages as one of their ways to help the remaining Christians and convince them to stay. The LP Pilgrimages aims to help the Christians flourish in the Holy Land.  They do this by utilizing Christian local businesses – stores, hotels, bus companies, guides and shops.  If the business flourishes, more jobs can be created. As a result, more people will be employed and this would mean better lives for them. Moreover, inviting Christians around the world to join their pilgrimages would mean a wider awareness of the plight of the Christians in the Holy Land. Personally, this journey really was an eye-opener for hubbie and me.  It made us aware of the conditions of our fellow Christian brothers.  Their stories gave us more insights that much needs to be done for them.  And we hope we can help more in the years to come. 

Fr. Olive pointing to the picture of the Apostolic Administrator of the Latin Patriarchate, His Excellency Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa

We were fortunate enough to make a courtesy call to His Excellency, Giacinto-Boulos Marcuzzo, the Vicar for Jerusalem.  This was one of the highlights for me.  Personally, it always gives me a feeling of deep honor when I get to meet priests and nuns who do so much for the Christian community.  Listening to the Vicar, I have formulated a deep respect for the work of the whole curia of the patriarchate in the Holy Land. Most importantly, I learned so much from that short visit with the Vicar.  He was able to explain what the situation is like for the Christians in the Holy Land.  Consequently, it has set a fire within me and hubbie to learn more of their mission and find more ways to help them.

So I am sharing with you the video I took of our meeting with him.  He explains more what we need to do.  He tells us of more ways to help our fellow Christian brothers.  With this, I am hoping that you would also be able to have an idea of the plight of our brothers there.  And consequently, you would be inspired to contact LP Pilgrimages and plan out your trip to the land of our Lord.

I know that LeAnn mentioned that they would like to form a pilgrimage originating from the Philippines.  This could be a chance for you, my lovies, if you’re from the motherland and would like to visit the Holy Land.  For those of you in the US and Canada, there is another pilgrimage happening sometime in October 2019.

For your interests, you can contact LP Pilgrimages at:

USA

410-897-2538 (Cell)
USA – Georgia Office
Latin Patriarchate Pilgrimages
P.O. Box 2015
Lawrenceville, GA. 30046

Rome

Via Nemorense, 8600199 Roma
​Vatican Office and Info Point Terminal Gianicolo 5th Floor
Cell: +39 342 8701187

Nazareth

Paulus 6th Street 82
P.O.Box 50009
Nazareth 1616001
Tel: +972 4 3740055
Fax: +972 4 6019185
Whatsapp / Viber
+972 544439501

Next Post: The Transfiguration Shrine.

Till then, my lovies!


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