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placeholder February 20, 2017   •   VOL. 55, NO. 4   •   Oakland, CA

Pilgrims on The Catholic Voice Holy Land tour stopped in Cana, where they were able to renew their wedding vows.

Area Holy Land pilgrims walk in footsteps of Jesus

Father Lawrence D'Anjou was in the Holy Land Feb. 6-15 with a group of Catholic Voice pilgrims from the Bay Area. The pilgrims' mission on this Holy Land journey was to grow deeper in their faith while walking in the footsteps of Jesus.

The pilgrims set out from Tel Aviv early one day and visited Caesarea, Mount Carmel, Nazareth and Cana.

The extraordinary ancient Roman ruins in Caesarea include an impressive aqueduct and an amphitheater, which is the oldest surviving Roman theater in the eastern Mediterranean region. The city and harbor were built under Herod the Great during 22-10 BC. This city is also the location of the 1961 discovery of the Pilate Stone. The Pilate Stone is the only archaeological artifact that mentions the Roman prefect Pontius Pilate, by whose order Jesus was crucified.

The pilgrims continued to Mount Carmel. It was windy on the mountain top as the pilgrims listened intently to the story of Elijah and the prophets of Baal from 1 Kings 18-21. 'Elijah said to the people of Israel, "How long will you waver between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him." Finally Elijah commanded the people to put the prophets of Baal to death, in keeping with God's command in Exodus 22:20.

The Catholic Voice bus continued to Nazareth where the pilgrims celebrated Mass in the Basilica of the Annunciation. The basilica is built over the remains of Byzantine and Crusader churches and is the largest in Israel.

The basilica features an extensive gallery of paintings and mosaics depicting the Virgin Mary from more than 65 countries. The metallic depiction from the USA was sculpted by Charles Madden of Maple Glen, Pennsylvania.

Father Lawrence concelebrated Mass with Bishop David Zubik of Pittsburgh. Bishop Zubik shared his devotion to Our Lady and the Annunciation during his homily. Bishop Zubik reminded us that we are all called to serve and obey the Lord in different capacities and we must be open to the call and not fearful.

He shared his reaction 20 years ago on the day he received the call from Cardinal Donald Wuerl, informing him that Pope John Paul II had selected him to be an auxiliary bishop. He remembers praying, "God do you know what you are doing?" The bishop then realized he was so fearful and decided to release the fear and trust in the Lord.

Many of the pilgrims expressed joy and gratitude they had set aside their own fears and journeyed to the Holy Land with Father Lawrence, who lived and studied in Israel many years ago.

The group stopped for lunch at a Druze restaurant for falafels. The Druze are a unique religious and ethnic minority in Israel. The pilgrims purchased some beaded necklaces from the Druzes to show support.

The last stop this day was the wedding chapel, in Cana. It is dedicated to weddings and its name commemorates Jesus' first miracle of turning water into wine at the famous wedding at Cana.

Cana's actual location is uncertain, with at least three possible candidates. But the commemoration of the miracle of the wine is traditionally fixed at Cana, about 3 miles northeast of Nazareth on the road to Tiberias.

The Catholic Voice couples renewed their wedding vows inside the wedding chapel. No one had cold feet and it was a tearful and meaningful experience for many. Everyone celebrated with wine and baklava.

The pilgrims then made their way to Tiberias for dinner at their new hotel, on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. Hummus was a staple on the buffet table and the group enjoyed trying many different foods they have never eaten before.

Next they will set sail on the Sea of Galilee. All the pilgrims were eagerly looking forward to meeting the Palestinian Christians in Bethlehem in the coming days.

Pilgrims on The Catholic Voice Holy Land Pilgrimage visited the ancient Roman amphitheater in Caesarea, the oldest surviving Roman theater in the eastern Mediterranean region.
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