Photo: Bishop William Murphy with Patriarch Emeritus Michel Sabbah in Jerusalem. Photo by Jen Hardy/Catholic Relief Services
Bishop Murphy continues to share his experiences as part of a delegation of U.S. Bishops on a Pilgrimage of Peace in the Holy Land.
What a day this has been!
We walked the Via Dolorosa early in the morning to the Chapel of the Flagellation at the fourth station where we offered Mass for all victims of violence. Little did I know that a priest and two sisters would give our prayer a new focus later at lunch.
The Armenian Church has strong presence in the Old City. The Armenian Patriarch of Jerusalem is an American citizen who invited us to their liturgy and then received us in the Patriarchate that stands in their own quarter of the Old City. He have us some moving and very important insights into the current situation of Christians in the Middle East, emphasizing the plight of the Christians under the promise of their protection in Israel.
The former Latin Patriarch, Michel Sabbah, received us at the retirement home on the Mount of Olives where he lives. He underscored two points. First he reminded us that we are men of the Gospel and not of politics. Second he outlined the many ways he felt the Palestinians are being mistreated and placed much of the problems at the doorstep of the American Administration.
One of the most moving moments came at lunch when a Jesuit Father, a convert from Judaism, spoke of the work he and two Sisters carry out with exploited Christians from Asia and Africa who are asylum seekers in Israel, many or them trafficked, none of them able to have legal status in Israel and all of them living on the margins of society. The work they do is extraordinary and their witness is truly of Christ.
After lunch I played hooky and walked with a Jewish friend through the Jewish Quarter to the Western Wall. He gave me an intense and moving picture of Jews in Jerusalem through the centuries. He and I both took time to pray in our own tradition at the Western Wall. Surrounded by so many observant Jews praying alone or in groups I felt part of an enormous and blessed tradition; blessed by God who promised His Chosen people this land and then, from His people, chose Mary to bring into the world our Savior, Christ the Lord.
Back at the hotel we bishops were briefed by our people from Catholic Relief Services and Catholic Near East Welfare Association on the work the Catholic Church in our country carries on among the poor, the refugees, the asylum seekers, the dispossessed and so many of God’s beloved in the Middle East who are suffering.
I am going to bed now after night prayer with all of them in my heart and I ask all of you to pray for our pilgrimage and even more to pray for all those whom we seek to help by the witness of our prayer and our commitment.