Visiting the ‘living stones’ of the Holy Land

Visiting the ‘living stones’ of the Holy Land

The Holy Land – that place where God chose to be born amongst us – can be said to be a ‘fifth Gospel’ of sorts. It was in that land where the dramatic moments of salvation history were played out right from God’s Covenant with the ancient Israelites to the incarnation, life, death and resurrection of the God-made-man Jesus.

I was privileged to lead a group of pilgrims to the Holy Land last week on what has become known as The Irish Catholic Christian Solidarity Pilgrimage. It is an annual event that sees people from all over the country come together for a special journey to walk in the footsteps of Christ. Like any other pilgrimage to the Holy Land there are stops at the Sea of Galilee, Bethlehem, Nazareth and Jerusalem.

There we see things that date from the time of Jesus – some of them now little more than rubble and stones. But, what makes this pilgrimage different is the special focus on the ‘living stones’ in that place – the Christian community in the Holy Land. While they make up just around 2% of the overall population today, Christians are a vital part of the day-to-day life of the Holy Land.

We were reminded during our trip, that without the Christian presence, the Holy Land is little more than a museum for Christians.

We heard from Bishop Marcuzzo stories of the struggles that the Christians face in the Holy Land being such a small minority. He told us about how many would like to leave and that the Church has to work hard to ensure that they can have a viable future and can hold on to their identity. A vital part in this is education: every parish in the Holy Land puts huge emphasis on their local Catholic school which helps parents to pass on their faith. It’s an extraordinarily moving experience to visit the schools and hear the children praying in Aramaic, the language of Jesus. One cannot help but be filled with the profound sense that these children are the direct descendants of those who were the first to hear the message of Jesus.

The Christian Solidarity Pilgrimage is about concrete material and spiritual support for the Christians so that they can remain there as symbols of a living faith (see pages 14 and 15).

If you would like more information on how to support the Christians of the Holy Land or would like to register your interest in joining next year’s Christian Solidarity Pilgrimage, email me on and I will be happy to keep you up to date.