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Italian pilgrimage:
History, traditions,
cultureómost of all,

Pilgrims can walk
in the footsteps of
St. Junipero Serra

placeholder April 11, 2016   •   VOL. 54, NO. 7   •   Oakland, CA
Above, Pope Francis gets close to the crowd. Left, the crowd in St. Peter's Square.

Italian pilgrimage: History, traditions, culture
— most of all, spirituality

Last October I had the blessing and privilege to visit Italy for the third time. On those occasions, I was also blessed to see now St. John Paul II, Benedict XVI, as well as the present Pope Francis during papal audiences, and at a very close distance.

These three experiences were very significant for me and for those who accompanied me on those trips. While there, you can experience a universal church at St. Peter's Square by having the opportunity to see people from all over the world praying together along with our shepherd.

In October 2015 I traveled with some parishioners, and people from other parishes, since we were celebrating the 50th anniversary of our school and the 60th anniversary of our parish. Our parish was first known as the Most Precious Blood, but a fire destroyed it and in 1985 a new church was built with the name St. Francis of Assisi, in Concord.

This last trip was my first time traveling with a tour company, so we had a tour guide with us all of the time, and that makes a difference.

For example, our tour guide explained to us many things about the history, traditions, culture, food and many other aspects about Italy. But, most importantly, it was mostly a spiritual trip for two reasons: First, through the company, Pentecost Tours, we celebrated Masses in eight of the 10 days we were there in holy, beautiful, ancient, artistic, churches of Italy. Secondly, most of the Masses we celebrated were in Franciscan holy sites.

We also had time for ourselves to walk in the beautiful and artistic streets of Italy, places like Florence, Assisi, Rome, Pompeii, Capri, Naples, Sorrento. The pilgrimage ended with a short trip to the city of Paris, France, where we had a delicious dinner with a beautiful view of the city from the Eiffel Tower.

If you are thinking of a tour this year and have the possibility to go with us, give yourselves this opportunity. You will not regret it.

(Rev. Ismael Gutiérrez has been a priest for the Diocese of Oakland for the past 12 years, the last six as parochial administrator of St. Francis of Assisi Parish, Concord.)

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