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Sunday, June 16, 2024

Year of Faith Holy Land Pilgrimage: The Holy Sepulchre and Jerusalem

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Story and photos by Phillip Sategna

Part I | Part II

October 8, Day 8:

Holy Sepulchre refers to the tomb in which the Body of Jesus Christ was laid after His death upon the Cross. The Evangelists tell us that it was Joseph of Arimathea’s own new monument, which he had hewn out of a rock, and that it was closed by a great stone rolled to the door (Matthew 27:60; Mark 15:46; Luke 23:53). It was in a garden in the place of the Crucifixion, and was nigh to the Cross (John 19:41, 42) which was erected outside the walls of Jerusalem, in the place called Calvary (Matthew 27:32; Mark 15:20; John 19:17; cf. Hebrews 13:12), but close to the city (John 19:20) and by a street (Matthew 27:39; Mark 15:29).

That it was outside the city is confirmed by the well-known fact that the Jews did not permit burial inside the city except in the case of their kings. No further mention of the place of the Holy Sepulchre is found until the beginning of the fourth century. But nearly all scholars maintain that the knowledge of the place was handed down by oral tradition, and that the correctness of this knowledge was proved by the investigations caused to be made in 326 by the Emperor Constantine, who then marked the site for future ages by erecting over the Tomb of Christ a basilica, in the place of which, according to an unbroken written tradition, now stands the church of the Holy Sepulchre.

The photo on the left is the entrance to the tomb where the body of Christ was brought after his body was taken down from the cross. The right photo shows Bishop James Wall, assisted by Father Matt Keller and a Franciscan Priest, conducting a special mass for us in a very special and holy place. We were blessed to have mass right at the entrance to the tomb of Christ.

Left two photos are the last place we visited in the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre. It was once a beautiful chapel that caught on fire many years ago and ruined everything in the large room. Politics of this church, which I have already talked about, have not allowed or refused to let any reconstruction take place so you see it as it is today.

The photos on the right show the remains of a Byzantine Church that is adjacent to the pools of Bethesda. The Pool of Bethesda is a pool of water in the Muslim Quarter of Jerusalem, on the path of the Beth Zeta Valley.

The fifth chapter of the Gospel of John describes such a pool in Jerusalem, near the Sheep Gate, which is surrounded by five covered colonnades. The gospel account said this pool is associated with healing.

This archaeological discovery proved beyond a doubt that the description of this pool in the Gospel of John was not the creation of the Evangelist. It reflected an accurate and detailed knowledge of the site. The Gospel speaks of (a) the name of the pool as Bethesda; (b) its location near the Sheep Gate; (c) the fact that it has five porticos; with rushing water. All these details are corroborated through literary and archaeological evidence affirming the historical accuracy St. John’s account.

The Church of St. Anne is a Roman Catholic Church, located at the start of the Via Dolorosa, near the Lions’ Gate.

The current church, was erected near the remains of an earlier Byzantine basilica, and is located over the site of a grotto believed by the Crusaders to be the birthplace of Our Blessed Mother Mary, mother of Jesus. The church is dedicated to Anna and Joachim, who according to tradition lived here, and the site where their daughter, the Virgin Mary, was born in a cave which is located under the basilica. The church was completed in 1138. The front of the church, a statue of the Blessed Mother as a child with her mother, and the altar of St. Anne’s are shown in these photos. Many protestant tourists like to come into these churches, not showing the respect for the Presence of Christ, sit down or stand, and sing protestant songs just to hear the beautiful acoustics and the reverberations that these types of churches produce, pack up and move on to the next church.

Father Matt Keller did them one better, when he had finished praying and meditating from his location on the first bench of the church, he started to sing a song, but he sang in beautiful Latin, and sang it acappella. When Father Matt began to sing, everyone in the church immediately stopped making noise and moving around and focused on him. The sound of his echoing voice in that ancient church was beautiful. When he finished the song, there weren’t too many dry eyes in our group. I am 100% certain that not only did our Blessed Mother hear him; she was the one that inspired him to sing like that at that very moment in that church! Another beautiful experience of our pilgrimage! I was fortunate enough to video most of it on my iPad. Lucky me!

The two left photos were taken at the entrance to the Western Wall. We had to go through a security checkpoint to get in.

The right photo is a great view of the entire complex especially when you read the short history I included below. Notice the location of the wall and the location of the Dome of the Rock, the golden domed building in the upper left corner of this photo. The Dome of the Rock is a shrine located on the Temple Mount in the Old City of Jerusalem. The domed central plan structure was patterned after the Christian Church of the Holy Sepulcher. It was initially completed in 691 AD becoming the first work of Islamic architecture.

It is located at the visual center of a platform known as the Temple Mount. It was constructed on the site of the Second Jewish Temple, which was destroyed during the Roman Siege of Jerusalem in 70 AD. The Church of St. Cyrus and St. John was built on the site and later expanded to become an elaborate basilica. That basilica may have remained up to 637 AD when Jerusalem surrendered it during the Muslim conquest of Syria, it was destroyed after that. The site’s significance stems from these three religious traditions regarding the rock, known as the Foundation Stone, at its heart, which bears great significance for Jews, Christians and Muslims. It is considered “the most contested piece of real estate on earth.”

The Western Wall, Wailing Wall is located in the Old City of Jerusalem at the foot of the western side of the Temple Mount. It is a remnant of the ancient wall that surrounded the Jewish Temple‘s courtyard, and is arguably the most sacred site recognized by the Jewish faith outside of the Temple Mount itself. It has been a site for Jewish prayer and pilgrimage for centuries; the earliest source mentioning Jewish attachment to the site dates back to the 4th century. From the mid-19th century onwards, attempts to purchase rights to the wall and its immediate area were made by various Jews, but none was successful.

October 9, Day Nine:

Far left is the wall around Jerusalem. This gate is directly across from the Garden of Gethsemane. Jesus would have been led from the Garden down through the valley and towards this, now sealed gate. Middle Left: The entrance to the complex is on the north side, which opens to the north garden. The title reads “Hortus Gethsemane” – the garden of Gethsemane. Above the name of the church is the symbol of the Franciscans, the custodians of  the Holy sites.  Their symbol is a large cross with four crosses on each of its corners. This symbol was the Crusaders sign of Jerusalem, and was adapted by the Franciscans. The 5-cross symbol is based on the 5 Holy wounds of the crucifixion of Jesus (2 in the hands, 2 in the legs, and one in the chest).

Middle right is an enlargement of the sign on the wall above. Far Right: This is our guide’s grandfather and father’s grave sites. No Christian can be buried here anymore. He has to sneak in to clean their graves. It has tall walls and razor wire around it. We didn’t realize how badly the Palestinian Christians are treated until we got a firsthand view for ourselves!

With the rise of the Zionist movement in the early 20th century, the wall became a source of friction between the Jewish community and the Muslim religious leadership, who were worried that the wall was being used to further Jewish nationalistic claims to the Temple Mount and Jerusalem.

Outbreaks of violence at the foot of the wall became commonplace and an international commission was convened in 1930 to determine the rights and claims of Muslims and Jews in connection with the wall. After the 1948 Arab-Israeli War the wall came under Jordanian control and Jews were barred from the site for 19 years until Israel captured the Old City in 1967 and three days later bulldozed the adjacent 770 year old Moroccan Quarter. To say there are still some hard feelings over that 1967 act by Israel would be a gross understatement!

Left photo, the Basilica of the Agony, also called The Church of All Nations. A Catholic Franciscan church, built in 1924 by donations from many nations (hence one of its names). It is one of the most magnificent churches, located on the east bank of valley Kidron at the foothill of the Mount of Olives.

The front of the church, facing the temple mount, is covered by a large mosaic picture. According to the New Testament, this place was the site where Jesus had his last prayer before he was betrayed and arrested by the Romans.

The four statues on top of each column are four writers of the Gospels, Matthew, Luke, Mark, and John. The mosaic is full of Church Symbolisms that you can find described online. The front was under repair when we were there.

The right photo is on the north side of the church. The painting illustrates the story of the prayer in the garden and the betrayal: Peter, John and James are seen on the left side, since they waited nearby while Jesus prayed. The priests and soldiers and the torch holder are on the right side. Judas is seen kissing Jesus on his cheek, a sign for the Roman soldiers to pick him up. The Latin text under the painting is from Matthew 26:50 (“And Jesus said unto him, Friend, wherefore art thou come? Then came they, and laid hands on Jesus and took him.”) and Luke 24: 7 (“The Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.”).

Top left photo: Garden of Gethsemane. According to the New Testament, this place was the site where Jesus had his last prayer before he was betrayed and arrested by the Romans.

Top Middle: Bishop Wall and our tour guide, Rimon.

Top right photo: A stone carving in a garden wall. The bare hand is the hand of Jesus (pointing to the left), while the hand with a sleeve is St. Francis of Assisi, the founder. Both hands are perforated – the holes created by nails (Jesus on the cross, St. Francis of stigmata). On the bottom of the cross is the 5-cross symbol of the Franciscans.

Bottom left photo: shows one of the old olive trees in the garden. This tree plus 7 more here have been dated to be over 2,000 yrs. old.

Bottom middle: A sculpture done below an outside window of the church showing the Agony of Jesus in this Garden!

Left: Altar in the Franciscan Chapel. The two statues below the altar depict sleeping apostles. This chapel is located in an ancient cave.

Middle: Bishop Wall giving his homily during Mass at the Franciscan Chapel within the Grotto of Gethsemane, the place where Christ left his apostles while he went to pray.

Right: Father Matthew Keller, Bishop James Wall, and Franciscan Father Dominico.

The Church of the Pater Noster, also known as the Sanctuary of the Eleona (olive grove), is a partially reconstructed Roman Catholic church located on the Mount of Olives, north of the Tombs of the Prophets, in Jerusalem. It stands on the traditional site of Christ‘s teaching of the Lord’s Prayer. (Luke 11:2-4). Today, the land on which the church stands formally belongs to France (top photo flag).

The modern church is built on the site of a fourth-century basilica designed by Constantine I to commemorate the Ascension of Jesus Christ. It was built under the direction of Constantine’s mother Helena in the early 4th century, who named it the Church of the Disciples.

The historian Eusebius of Caesarea recounts that Constantine constructed a church over a cave on the Mount of Olives that had been linked with the Ascension. The 2nd century Acts of John mention the existence of a cave on the Mount of Olives associated with the teachings of Jesus, but not specifically the Lord’s Prayer. The church survived intact until it was destroyed by Persians in 614.

Dominus Flevit is a Roman Catholic Church located on the Mount of Olives immediately facing the Old City of Jerusalem.

Dominus Flevit, which translates from Latin as “The Lord Wept”, was fashioned in the shape of a teardrop to symbolize the tears of Christ. Here, according to the 19th chapter of the Gospel of Luke, Jesus, while walking toward the city of Jerusalem, becomes overwhelmed by the beauty of the Second Temple and predicting its future destruction, and the Diaspora of the Jewish people, weeps openly.

One of the newest churches in Jerusalem, Dominus Flevit sits atop an ancient site. During construction of the sanctuary archaeologists uncovered artifacts dating back to the Canaanite period, as well as tombs from both the Second Temple and Byzantine eras. The site of Christ’s weeping was unmarked until the Crusader era. It was during this time that people began commemorating the site.

Right photo: A mosaic picture of a hen and her chickens decorates the bottom of the altar. The Latin inscription means: “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing ” (Luke 13:34).

Far left photo: Painting by Enrique Simonet (He wept over it). Jesus looking down at the temple and knowing it would someday be destroyed. Middle left: Beautiful view out the chapel window showing the golden domed, Dome of the Rock, the oldest existing Islamic building in the world.

Middle and far right: Photos inside the Dominus Flevit Church of carvings located up in the ceiling dome of the church.

Jewish Cemetery. We walked down the mountain right by this and we saw this place many times. Jews have been buried on the Mount of Olives from ancient times. There are an estimated 150,000 graves on the Mount, including tombs traditionally associated with Zechariah and Absalom.

Following the 1948 Arab–Israeli War, Jordan obligated itself within the framework of the 1949 Armistice Agreement to allow “free access to the holy sites and use of the cemeteries on the Mount of Olives.” During the 19 year Jordanian occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem the terms were not upheld. Non-Israeli Christian pilgrims were allowed to visit the Mount, but Jews of all countries and most non-Jewish Israeli citizens were barred from entering Jordan and therefore were unable to travel to the area (are you seeing “payback” for our guide’s family graves?).

By the end of 1949, and throughout the Jordanian occupation of the site, some Arab residents uprooted tombstones and plowed the land in the cemeteries and an estimated 38,000 tombstones were damaged in total. During this period, four roads were paved through the cemeteries, in the process destroying graves including those of famous persons. Jordan’s King Hussein permitted the construction of the Intercontinental Hotel at the summit of the Mount of Olives together with a road that cut through the cemetery which destroyed hundreds of Jewish graves, some from the First Temple Period. Graves were also demolished for parking lots and a gas station and were even used in latrines at a Jordanian Army barracks.

Following the 1967 Six-Day War and the Israeli capture of East Jerusalem, its government began restoration work and re-opened the cemetery for burials. Israel’s 1980 unilateral annexation of East Jerusalem was condemned as a violation of international law and ruled null and void by the UN Security Council in UNSC Resolution 478. This Jewish cemetery on the Mount of Olives is targeted regularly by vandals and mourners have been assaulted here.

Absalom was David’s third son born at Hebron (2 Samuel 3:2), and moved at an early age, with the transfer of the capital, to Jerusalem, where he spent most of his life. He was a great favorite of his father and of the people as well. Things changed considerably when his full sister Tamar was raped by Amnon, their half-brother and David’s eldest son. Absalom waited two years and avenged her by sending his servants to murder Amnon at a feast after he was drunk, to which he had invited all the king’s sons (2 Samuel 13).

After four years Absalom decided to declare himself king and raised a revolt at Hebron, the former capital. All Israel and Judah joined him. David now had to do battle with his own son.

A fateful battle was fought in the Wood of Ephraim (the name suggests a locality west of the Jordan) and Absalom’s army was completely routed. Absalom himself was caught by his head in the boughs of an oak-tree as the mule he was riding ran beneath it—an irony given that he was previously renowned for his abundant hair and handsome head. He was discovered hanging there still alive by one of David’s men, who reported the matter to Joab, the king’s commander. Joab avenged David by fatally striking and killing Absalom, by the use of three spears, followed by a group of swordsmen, an act that caused David great sorrow.

This has been your Old Testament and Jewish history lesson for the day!

The entire group is coming down the long steep road past the Jewish Cemetery on our way down to the bus. It was a very long walk down to get to the bus. You don’t really realize it until you turn around every once in a while and look back up the hill. We were on our way to Shepherd’s Field for shopping and lunch. Angela Biava and Father Matt seem to be leading and John Morrisette looks like he’s bringing up the rear. Just before we left to come down the hill we heard bells ringing. It reminded Bishop Wall of the Angelus. Rimon told us a story related to the bells. He asked us if we knew where the saying “knock on wood” comes from. It comes from Christians hammering a piece of wood, usually above a doorway during the Angelus prayer. There was a time in church history that bells were not allowed to ring for years and years. So Christians secretly used to “knock on wood” to substitute for the bell ringing. Like your Jewish History on the previous page, that will be your Catechism for the day!

We had lunch in Bethlehem. We had to go through a checkpoint to get to this Jewish Golden Corral!

Middle photo left side: Jeanne, Nina, Joanne, Ruth, Loretta, and Bishop Wall. Middle photo right side: Phillip, Father Matt, Dominic, Rosie, Kathleen, and Theresa.

Bottom left side: Marie, John, Diane, Roy, D’Ann, Tina, and Angela standing behind. Bottom right: James, Lynn, Ed, Larry, Raphaela, Lupe, and Rimon was taking the photo! On the bus we were only known by numbers! I just know Bishop Wall was number 1!

Far left: Shepherd’s Field Church. Middle left: Painting inside the church. Middle right: Altar inside the church.

Some shepherds, amongst the most despised of the Jewish people, went to adore Jesus; dazzled by a great light, an angel brought them the tidings of joy that the long-awaited savior had been born. And they heard a host of angels praising God who, by sending the Messiah to the earth, had shown His greatness to the celestial court and given salvation to men.

Ancient Church and the excavations at the Shepherd’s Field. We went here right before we left for the day.

The Middle photo shows Bishop James Wall in the background of the excavations.

If you want to really enjoy the Holy Land start with this website and see what you think. It will blow you away: www.360cities.net. That is the main website, but for just this location: www.360cities.net/image/archaelogical-excavations-shepherdsfield

Right photo: You should remember this from a previous photo done in a stone wall. The date is MCMLIV (1954); I learned my Roman numerals at an early age. The symbol is a Franciscan symbol seen in different forms all over the Holy Land in areas owned or run by the Franciscans. The arm with no sleeve pointing left is the arm of Jesus and the arm with the sleeve is the arm of St. Francis of Assisi, founder of the order. Look at their hand, that’s the key. Jesus has the hole from the nail and Francis has the hole of the stigmata!

October 10, Day Ten

Altar in the Co-Cathedral of the Latin Patriarch, we went from here to the induction ceremony for the Knights of the Holy Sepluchre.

Right: Father Matthew Keller and Bishop James Wall find some quality prayer time in a quality place to pray.

Inside the Co-Cathedral of the Latin Patriarch:

Far left: St. Peter statue (notice his right foot is shiny from everyone over the years touching his foot). Middle left: a beautiful lectern in the church. Middle right: Our Blessed Lady of the Sorrows with the sword that Simeon predicted would pierce her heart. The 7 Dolars are: 1-The Prophecy of Simeon, 2-The Flight into Egypt, 3-The Loss of the Child Jesus, 4-The Meeting of Jesus and Mary on the Way of the Cross, 5-The Crucifixion, 6-Jesus’ body Struck by a Lance and Taken Down from the Cross, 7-The Burial of Jesus

Far right: a stained glass window of the Crucifixion.

Left: Bishop Wall making opening remarks to Bishop William Schomali, Bishop Wall explained our pilgrimage and what all we had been doing here in the Holy Land. Right: Nina and Dominic Biava, Bishop James Wall, Bishop William Schomali, Father Matt Keller, James and Marie Strickler pose for a photo after their induction into the Order of the Sepluchre.

Standing Back Row: Rimon Makhlouf, Phillip Sategna, Jeanne Sategna, Ed Fritz, Diane Fritz, Raphaela Dragan, Larry Dragan, John Morrisette, Lynn Morrisette, Ruth Gorden, Roy Waters.

Standing Front Row: Kathleen King, Theresa Murry, Loretta Baciao, Rosie Gomez, D’Ann Waters, Angela Biava, Tina Rosetta, Lupe Rosetta, Joanne Kopren

Seated: Nina Biava, Father Matthew Keller, Bishop James Wall, Bishop William Schomali, Dominic Biava, James Strickler, Marie Strickler


We had the pleasure of having Bishop Schomali speak to us as a group before refreshments were served. He started off by talking about the Year of Faith, the roots of our faith, and the roots of their foundation. He hoped that in his lifetime, by the will of God, he will see peace in the Holy Land. He gave a brief history of Christianity in the Holy Land. In 638 AD everyone here was a Christian; now it is at its lowest point ever, 400,000 total Christians.

He emphasized that the Lord will never allow our Catholic Church to leave the Holy Land! He said there is a very big challenge due to the fact that you have Roman Catholic (Latin), Greek Orthodox, Gothic, Armenian, and Protestant churches. They all meet with each other for events, for example, charity functions. We denounce, we condemn, we sometimes fight, yet we eat together.

A major issue in the Holy Land is Easter. Easter depends on the moon in the Gregorian calendar. The Jewish calendar has a five week difference at the most and sometimes there is no difference. The moon decides. We have tried forever to convince everyone to have ONE FEAST, ONE EASTER. A decision to get together is difficult. Many Christians are not happy about the proposal. Cyprus and Palestine are OK with the idea but others are not.

Our challenge is the 80% Jews and all others are 20%. We are in a minority and there is no openness. Jesus was open to everyone; sinners, crippled, the sick, he was the most open minded person ever. Jesus reached out to everyone. We have Moslems, Jews, and Christians. We are the minority here now, but not in the world. There are many confrontations here. There are no solutions on borders.

No one knows who the city of Jerusalem belongs to. When Israel negotiates peace, they always put Jerusalem at the head of the list because they know this always causes a problem. It seems impossible but not to the Lord.

He told all of us that we were very courageous to come here! He asked us to pray for Jerusalem. The Lord has the key to unlock the problem. The Lord is more consistent so pray for peace in Jerusalem. The Lord is slow, but patient. Jerusalem is the holiest city in the world so encourage others to pray for us also. Keep us in your heart.

The Bishop told us he was born in Bethlehem and has been a priest for forty years. He said he is responsible for the Catholics in Jerusalem and in Syria where there are currently 700,000 refugees. He said there are one and a half million people in Gaza, only 1,500 are Christians, but they are still respected. He said he constantly prays for Gaza because they continually keep closing the borders. Islamic power controls that area.

The Bishop said they try to serve everyone, the 200,000 Christians in Jordan, the 140,000 Christians in Jerusalem.

When asked about the Knights of the Sepluchre, he said they maintain things to help others. There are over 100 Catholic schools in the Holy Land. The Knights are financially responsible for 40 schools including a seminary that currently has 30 seminarians, mostly Jordanians.

He emphasized the turmoil in the Middle East. The most difficult people the Church deals with are the Muslims. Jews are not as bad because we have commonality with the Bible (Abraham). Islam is becoming more and more of a threat in the area. Catholicism is threat to the Jews and the Muslims. There are Jews who convert (20,000) but it is kept secret.

Someone asked what can us as Americans do. The Bishop said “we need prayers!” He said to continually pray for peace, and he emphasized that the Christian tourists that come here make a big difference. He also said that they get support from diocese in America and they definitely need that support.

We ended our session with liqueur and a desert. It was overpowering to hear all of this information from a man who lives it every day of his life. We get to visit for a few days and go home to a free country! I, for one, have an entirely different outlook on the Middle East!

Far left photo is the entrance to the Church of the Visitation. Notice the word Magnificat is inlaid in the stone entry way. Middle left photo is the Virgin Mary Spring. This town goes back to the age of Joshua. When Mary met Elizabeth, water came forth from the rocks. Our guide said that water source from ancient times dried up thirty years ago. Middle right photo is the façade of the church’s beautiful mosaic. Far right photo is a bronze plaque at the entrance to the church.

The Church of the Visitation in the Ein Kerem neighborhood of Jerusalem is a Catholic church that is located up a mountain. It is named in honor of the visit paid by Mary, Jesus’ mother, to the house of her relative Elizabeth, John the Baptist’s mother.

Upon Mary’s arrival, the unborn John the Baptist recognized the unborn Jesus and “leaped with joy” in Elizabeth’s womb (Lk 1:44). Elizabeth exclaimed, “Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished!” and Mary sang a hymn of thanksgiving known as the Magnificat.

According to Christian tradition this is the site of the home of Zechariah and Elizabeth, John the Baptist’s parents. Here can be found the remains of a Byzantine church and a Crusaders church, and on top of them there is a modern 20th century church (inaugurated in 1955), which was built by the famous Italian architect Antonio Barluzzi (our guide Rimon, incorrectly named him as Antonio Palucci), who is responsible for many impressive churches around Israel in general and Jerusalem in particular.

Left photo is the chapel in the Church of the Visitation with the beautiful artwork above the altar. Middle: A statue in the outside courtyard of the Blessed Mother visiting her cousin Elizabeth. Right: An ancient cistern from which, according to tradition, Zechariah and Elizabeth drank. Water travels from here to the well location found on the previous page. This well is inside a small chapel.

We sat on the benches and Bishop Wall led us in the 2nd Joyful Mystery, the Visitation. We said the 10 Hail Marys, the Glory Be, and the Fatima prayer.

Before we left this chapel Father Matthew Keller sang the Magnificat in Latin. It was beautiful and inspiring!!

Left: Some of the over forty ceramic plaques of the printed Magnificat; each one is a different language. Middle: This is a painting from inside the church that shows the architect Antonio Barluzzi hid in amongst a lot of prayerful people. Right: This is the ancient stone that is said to have hid Zechariah and Elizabeth from Herod’s soldiers.

These are just some of the Churches designed by Antonio Barluzzi that we visited. Top left: Basilica of Agony. Top middle: Basilica of the Transfiguration. Top right: Church of the Visitation. Bottom left: Dominus Flevit. Bottom middle: Church of the Beatitudes. Bottom right: Church at Mt. Carmel.

Barluzzi designed and help build twenty four structures in the Holy Land including churches, seminaries, schools, monasteries, convents, hospitals, and houses. It was amazing to go into some of his churches.

Upper left photo: the bedroom & portrait of Blessed Marie Alphonsine-Ghattas. She was beatified on November 22, 2009. Her body was exhumed in April of 2013. Identifying the body is a necessary step in the beatification or canonization of a person in order to avoid false devotions, the trafficking of relics, and also ascertain that the remains buried are that of the saint.

Upper middle photo: A statue of Blessed Marie in the garden area. Upper right photo: the chapel in the house of Blessed Marie. Bottom left: One of the nuns of the convent who look after Blessed Marie’s residence. Bottom right photos: The Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem and Pope Francis portraits hanging in the residence.

Left photo: The Church of St. John the Baptist has been in the hands of the Franciscans since 1674. In 1941–1942 they conducted excavations in the area immediately west of the church and the adjoining monastery. Several rock-cut chambers and graves were found, as well as wine presses with mosaic floors and small chapels with mosaic tiling. The southern rock-cut chamber contained pottery of a type found elsewhere in Jerusalem, probably from the first century AD.

Middle photo: Notice the symbolism again of Jesus and St. Francis only this time Jesus is pointing to the right and St. Francis it pointing to the left.

Right photo: The altar inside of the Church of St. John the Baptist.

Left photo: Bishop Wall in the chapel of St. John the Baptist looking for a Bible reference.

Middle photo: The most striking part of the adorned interior is the Crypt, which houses the so-called Grotto of the Benedictus (Zacharia’s song in Luke 1:68-79), considered being the place where John the Baptist was born. A marble star beneath the altar bears a Latin inscription:

“HIC PRECURSOR DOMINI NATUS EST” – “Here was born the precursor of the Lord.”

Right photo: St. John the Baptist baptizing Jesus in the river Jordan.

John the Baptist is described as having the unique practice of baptism for the forgiveness of sins. Most scholars agree that John baptized Jesus. Scholars generally believe Jesus was as a follower or disciple of John and several New Testament accounts report that some of Jesus’ early followers had previously been followers of John.

John the Baptist is also mentioned by Jewish historian Josephus. According to the New Testament, John anticipated a messianic figure greater than himself and Jesus was the one whose coming John foretold. Christians commonly refer to John as the precursor or forerunner of Jesus, since John announces Jesus’ coming. John is also identified with the prophet Elijah.

Left and middle photos: Jewish Museums. These are a scaled replica of ancient Jerusalem during the time of Jesus. It was amazing to see all the detail of this model; the temple, the walls around the city, the valleys; all done to actual scale. You get a real feel for what it looked like in the time of Jesus. Right photo: The roof of the Jewish Museum that actual remnants of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Some type of priests took these scrolls into exile. The books of Ester, Jeremiah, and Maccabees are missing, gee what a coincidence!

Left: Dormition Abbey. The Abbey of the Dormition is an abbey and the name of a Benedictine community in Jerusalem on Mt. Zion just outside the walls of the Old City near the Zion Gate. According to local tradition, it was on this spot, near the site of the Last Supper, that the Blessed Virgin Mary died. In Orthodoxy and Catholicism, as in the language of scripture, death is often called a “sleeping” or “falling asleep”, and this gave the original monastery its name, the church itself is called Basilica of the Assumption (or Dormition).

Middle: Side altar mosaic of the Blessed Mother and Jesus. The inscription “Behold the Virgin, conceive a son and name him Emmanuel”.

Right: Mosaic above the main altar. The Greek symbols above Mary’s right shoulder translates “Mother”, the symbol to the left of Jesus translates “of God”, symbols read from left to right “Mother of God.” The book that the baby Jesus is holding translates “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life!”

Left photo: the Virgin Mary’s Eternal Sleep. Middle left: Inscription says that this is “Sacred Dwelling of God, Faithful Church.” The Lamb of God is pouring out blood into a chalice. St. Peter and nine other Popes surround the lamb. Middle right: Inscription “There shall come forth a rod from the stem of Jesse”. Right: “Behold the Lamb of God” on his banner. It also has an inscription identifying the Jordan River.

Dormition Abbey was built to commemorate the Assumption of Our Lady.

Left photo: The sign outside the upper room area where tradition says the Last Supper took place. Middle left: Our pilgrimage group in the outer area of the upper room. We were going to the Church of St. Peter in Gallicante after this visit. Middle right: Bronze statue in the outer room. Right: This was taken in the same room showing the green metal door at the top of the steps. This door leads to the actual Upper Room. The room we were in is just outside of this green door. The Israeli government has control over this room and will not allow Christians inside. I guess the Israelis never heard the saying “It’s the Christian thing to do!”

Left: The bronze statue inside the Franciscan’s Church of the Upper Room (This room is called the Cenacolino, meaning small cenacle).

Right: Bishop James Wall giving his sermon on satisfying Christ in ways; Two or more are gathered – The Word is proclaimed – In Persona Christe via the priest – The Holy Eucharist, par excellence!

Left: Church of Saint Peter’s in Gallicantu. The church takes its name from the Latin word “Gallicantu”, meaning cock’s-crow. This is in commemoration of Peter’s triple rejection of Jesus “… before the cock crows twice.” (Mark 14:30). Middle: Engraved art work on door (“I tell you, Peter, before the rooster crows today, you will deny three times that you know me.” Luke 22:34). Right: Artwork in the church depicting Christ and Peter.

Left: Church of Saint Peter’s in Gallicantu. Sculpture of Jesus, which replicates the imprisoned Jesus. Right: Engraved art work on the wall in the Church of Saint Peter’s in Gallicantu.

Beneath the upper church is a chapel which incorporates stone from ancient grottos inside its walls. Down a hole in the center of the sanctuary one can see caves that may have been part of the Byzantine shrine. These walls are engraved with crosses left by fifth-century Christians. On an even lower level there is a succession of caves from the Second Temple period. Since tradition places the palace of Caiaphas on this site, many believe that Jesus may have been imprisoned in one of these crypts after his arrest. Under the church is the dungeon thought to be the cell where Jesus was detained for the night following his arrest. Prisoners were scourged in this area. Prisoners were usually given 39 lashes, never 40 or more.

Left photo: Part of the dungeon. Middle: A hole cut out of the stone where the guards could look down into the cells. Right: Our pilgrimage group listening to Father Matt read from scripture, Psalm 88, A Despairing Lament, describes this place.

Left photo: In the court yard of the church is a statue that describes the events of the denial of Jesus by Peter (see Mark 14), the cock (seen on the top), the maid, and the Roman soldier. The inscription reads parts from Luke 22: 57: “But he denied him, saying: Woman, I know him not.” Peter’s denials of Christ are recorded in all four Gospels (most succinctly in Matthew 26:69-75). Three of the Gospels also record Peter’s bitter tears of remorse and regret.

Prior to Peter’s denial he spoke to Jesus, “Lord,” Peter asked, “why can’t I follow You now? I will lay down my life for You!” Jesus replied, “Will you lay down your life for Me? I assure you: A rooster will not crow until you have denied Me three times. (John 13:37-38). The scene of Peter’s disgrace was the courtyard of the high priest Caiaphas. The Assumptionist congregation, which built St Peter in Gallicantu over the ruins of a Byzantine basilica, believes it stands on the site of the high priest’s house.

Middle: On the north side of the church is an ancient staircase that leads down towards the Kidron Valley. This may have been a passage from the upper city to the lower city during the first temple period. Many Christians believe that the Roman soldiers and Jesus followed this path down to Gethsemane the night of his arrest.

Right: There are more ruins dating back to Caiaphas’ time all around the grounds of this holy site.

Far left photo: Different view of Christ’s path down to Gethsemane. This path has been fenced off due to theft of stones! Middle left: Rimon and Bishop Wall checking the stock market.

Middle right: A sculpture on the outside wall of the grounds depicting Christ being taken to Caiaphas. The inscription plaque is just below.

This was the last stop we made on day ten of our pilgrimage.


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