The mystery and wonder of the Christmas story was well and truly engaged this year by two of Whaley Bridge’s clergy, Father Martin Riley and Deacon Mike Denny of Sacred Heart Church. They joined 11 other members of clergy from the Roman Catholic Diocese of Shrewsbury on a 12 day pilgrimage and study tour of the Holy Land.
The busy itinerary included many of the holy sites in the walled Old City of Jerusalem in the south and other prominent places around the Sea of Galilee to the north, where Jesus spent most of His time in ministry. From a Christian perspective, it was encouraging to see so many other pilgrims from different countries walking the same journey, a very welcome message of support to the increasingly fragile number of Christians living in Palestine today.
The visit to the birthplace of Jesus in Bethlehem, 10 km south of Jerusalem, found a walled city in itself, with the Israeli and Palestinian cultures partitioned by a nine metre high concrete wall built on the west bank, with entry and exit strictly controlled by armed Israeli security guards. As might be expected by the pilgrim, The Church of the Nativity hinted at the much sought-after peace that currently eludes the people of where scouts from Austria prepared to distribute the flame to other parts of Europe, something Churches Together in Whaley Bridge have received and enjoyed in the recent past.
Among many other new experiences in this land of discovery was a private audience with the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Faoud Twal, this being a major highlight for our intrepid pilgrims, before returning home to a freezing Britain last week.