Priests reflect on pilgrimage to the Holy Land (Part 2)

Cardinal O'Malley meets with Bishop William Shomali, Auxiliary Bishop of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem. Pilot photo/

Below are excerpts of reflections of some of the priests who participated in the Holy Land retreat with Cardinal O'Malley. The reflections focus on the second part of the pilgrimage around Jerusalem. The original reflections can be found at

April 12

By Father Daniel P. Moloney

On Friday morning, we had a meeting with Bishop William Shomali, Auxiliary Bishop of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem.

(He) shared with us several of the problems the Church faces in this patriarchate. Some were common experiences that we see in Boston, too: he mentioned that many Catholics were cultural Catholics, who often proudly identify as Christian and want their children baptized, but who didn't really have a personal encounter with Christ. But some challenges are particular to the Holy Land, especially the challenge of ecumenical dialogue with the Orthodox Churches, and of inter-religious dialogue with Jews and Muslims.

These two challenges interact -- it is hard to have a strong Christian witness to Jews and Muslims when there are thirteen Christian Churches here, each with their own leader. Around the corner from the Latin Patriarch are the Greek Orthodox, the Greek Catholic, and the Armenian Orthodox Patriarchs, (a kind of "Patriarch's Way").

When it comes to inter-religious dialogue... the Church here plays an important function, says Bishop Shomali, as a "bridge" between Muslims and Jews. There is basically no dialogue directly between Muslims and Jews, and almost none that includes Christians, Muslims, and Jews together. So the conversations that do take place are between Muslims and Christians and then between Christians and Jews. Neither are easy, but the bishop indicated those with Jews were further along.

Bishop Shomali asks all of us for our prayers. He particularly asked us to pray Psalm 122, "Pray for the Peace of Jerusalem," and asked us to intensify our prayer for peace and unity in the Holy Land. May we all say to Jerusalem, and all who live therein, "Peace be to your homes, may peace reign in your walls ... Peace!"

By Father Joseph Mazzone

"O Happy Fault!" One of the most powerful moments in the Holy Triduum Liturgy is the singing of the Exsultet. I thought of this line as we visited the Church called "St. Peter in Gallicantu." The Church commemorates Peter's denial of Christ at the house of the High Priest. Tradition holds that Jesus' trial was held here as well; in fact, beneath the floor of the Church, down a narrow, steep flight of stairs, is a cistern which may have been used as a prison which held Jesus the night of his arrest.

As we were in the Church, I couldn't help thinking that this Church could easily be seen as commemorating the shame of Peter, but it isn't. No, it is a testimony to the transforming love and mercy of Christ. I imagine Peter that night. I imagine the Lord looking at him as He's led to His trial and execution. What did Peter see in His face? I imagine not anger. Compassion, yes, and unconditional love and forgiveness. I think this is what allowed Peter to run to Christ after His resurrection, not away. As we were praying in the Church, I prayed that all of us, in our moments of guilt and shame, may see in it a moment to turn to The Lord, not away -- that our sins, like Peter's, can be transformed into moments of grace by Christ's healing Love, that it may give us the strength to boldly proclaim Him as Peter did after the Ascension in Solomon's Portico. O happy fault, that has merited us so great a Redeemer!

By Father Gregory Vozzo

We concluded our day of pilgrimage at the famous Western Wall of the city, where devout Jews of many places and rabbinic schools were getting ready to begin the Sabbath. This wall is significant because it is part of the very same wall that once enclosed the Temple area. Although the Temple was destroyed in 70 A.D., we do well to remember, as these Jews do, that God's dwelling in the Holy of Holies was once on the other side of this wall.

Although many people call the Western Wall "the wailing wall," this name is not accepted here. What we saw and learned today makes plain why this is. Those who come here to pray, long for what is to come not what once was. They long for the Messiah and for God's everlasting reign in Jerusalem. Their pilgrimage, much like ours, is one of joyful remembrance and hope. May all our tears be dried by the God who comes to save His people.

April 13

By Father Israel Rodriguez

Today, we went to visit the Basilica of the Holy Sepulcher. It was an extraordinary experience, being at the very place where Jesus rose from the dead! We celebrated Mass inside the small chapel which houses the Holy Sepulcher.

Our belief in the Resurrection is one of, if not the, most important, doctrines of our faith. St Paul says that "if Christ has not been raised, your faith is pointless;" and every Sunday we profess our belief in the Resurrection when we say the Creed. Through his Resurrection Jesus Christ has conquered Death for all of us, has given us a further proof of his Divinity, and has shown that love ultimately is stronger than sin and death. The tomb is indeed empty. Christ is Risen! And we are his witnesses and the joyful bearers of his Resurrection!

By Father Stephen Rock

A few hours after celebrating Mass at the empty tomb, we left for Bethlehem, full of anticipation. Our guides have been terrific and today was no different. Most of us knew that Bethlehem means "House of Bread," but were surprised to learn that in Arabic it is "House of Flesh": "And the Word was made Flesh." Another interesting point was that Herod's Tomb, lost for centuries, was recently found in ruins just a few miles from Bethlehem. He who tried to destroy the "newborn king of the Jews" is remembered by a pile of rubble, while people still come on pilgrimage to see the Grotto of Light.

At the Church, Father Francesco (Voltaggio)led us in through the narrow gate and asked us to open our hearts to God's great example of humility in becoming one of us. How often we have rebelled from God's call. Now in this place we have the opportunity to open our hearts as did Mary and Joseph. This place reveals the wonder of God's plan to send his Son to serve us and call us all to loving service. As we entered the nave we marveled at the Church's ancient beauty. Our fanciful mingling of faith and history came to a crashing halt as we encountered the crush of the crowd all trying to enter a four foot opening. We were humbled.

For me, it all came together at the Shepherds' Fields, where angels appeared to the poor, outcast shepherds, proclaiming the birth of Jesus. "Do not be afraid." "Glory to God in the highest." Christ's birth has changed the world and this place helps us to appreciate the wonder of God's plan.

Retired Green Bay auxiliary bishop failed to report abuse, withdraws from ministry

Green Bay, Wis., Sep 20, 2018 CNA/EWTN News.- Bishop Robert Morneau, Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus of Green Bay, has withdrawn from public ministry saying ...

Dolan 'impatient' waiting for apostolic visitation in response to McCarrick

New York City, N.Y., Sep 20, 2018 CNA.- The Archbishop of New York said Thursday that while he has confidence in the way Pope Francis is handling the ...

Two more Chilean bishops step down in wake of abuse crisis

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis accepted the resignations of two more Chilean bishops, bringing to seven the number of bishops who have stepped down ...

Celebration of the Priesthood dinner raises over $1.8 million

BOSTON -- A record 1,700 people attended the 10th annual Celebration of the Priesthood dinner to raise funds for the Clergy Health and Retirement Trust ...

Lawrence parish helps community cope with gas explosion aftermath

LAWRENCE -- Volunteers at St. Patrick Church's Cor Unum Meal Center were serving dinner when multiple natural gas explosions and fires broke out in homes ...

Ceremony, Mass kick off St. Augustine Chapel bicentennial

SOUTH BOSTON -- St. Augustine Chapel and Cemetery began its year-long bicentennial celebration on the weekend of Sept. 14-16 with tours, special Masses, ...

Mass. Knights install new officers

The Massachusetts State Council Knights of Columbus recently held its Installation of State Officers at St. John the Evangelist Parish in Canton with ...

Deal will keep Sancta Maria Nursing Facility open

CAMBRIDGE -- Sancta Maria Nursing Facility announced Sept. 17 that it has negotiated a comprehensive operational contract with Advocate Healthcare Management ...

From Cardinal Seán's blog

As I mentioned in my preface to last week's blog, this week and last, I have been in Rome for meetings related to the work of the Pontifical Commission ...

N.Y. Archdiocese names judge as independent reviewer on abuse protocols

NEW YORK (CNS) -- New York Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan has named a former federal judge to study archdiocesan policies and procedures with respect to sexual ...

U.S. reports poverty declines, but agencies finding needs remain great

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The good news from the U.S. Census Bureau Sept. 12 was that the poverty rate dropped for the third straight year in 2017 and median ...

Class-action lawsuit filed against eight Pennsylvania dioceses

PITTSBURGH (CNS) -- A class-action lawsuit was filed Sept. 17 against eight Catholic dioceses in Pennsylvania demanding the dioceses provide proof that ...

Apostolic visitor outlines plans for expansion at Medjugorje shrine

WARSAW, Poland (CNS) -- The Polish archbishop tasked with overseeing Bosnia-Herzegovina's Medjugorje shrine has outlined plans for expansion, including ...

Pope names administrator as Indian bishop investigated for alleged rape

MUMBAI, India (CNS) -- Pope Francis has accepted the request of an Indian bishop accused of raping a nun to be relieved of his duties during the investigation. In ...

In letters to German cardinal, retired pope defends way he stepped down

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Retired Pope Benedict XVI expressed his displeasure with the way a German cardinal publicly criticized his stepping down as pontiff, ...

Thousands of Hispanics expected in Texas for Encuentro summit

Fort Worth, Texas, Sep 20, 2018 CNA/EWTN News.- As many as 3,000 Catholics of Hispanic background are expected in Texas this week for the National V Encuentro, ...

Church plans third-party abuse reporting system, code of conduct

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Pledging to "heal and protect with every bit of the strength God provides us," the U.S. bishops' Administrative Committee Sept. 19 ...

Be grateful to parents, never insult them, pope says

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Honoring mothers and fathers means being grateful for the gift of life and Christians should never insult anyone's parents, Pope ...

Canadian cardinal: Women should help screen, train priest applicants

Poznan, Poland, Sep 18, 2018 CNA.- Increasing the role of women in screening and training priests is among the steps that should be taken to prevent future ...

Vatican delegation will travel to China this month to finalize agreement, Chinese newspaper reports

Beijing, China, Sep 18, 2018 CNA.- A newspaper tied to the Chinese Communist Party reported Tuesday that a delegation of Vatican officials will head to ...

Media reporting Vatican-China agreement could be signed in late September

HONG KONG (CNS) -- The long-awaited Sino-Vatican agreement on the nomination of bishops is expected to be signed in September, reported several media ...

Update: Irish singer Bono calls pope 'extraordinary man for extraordinary times'

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Bono, the lead singer of the Irish band U2, said he told Pope Francis that in Ireland "it looks as though the abusers are being ...

Cardinal Marx says mistakes were made, calls for change in German church

Cardinal Reinhard Marx, head of the German bishops' conference, admitted that mistakes were made in the German church's handling of sex abuse of minors ...

Church crisis response: Healing Masses, listening sessions, fasting

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- In response to the sexual abuse crisis in the church, Catholics are praying for victims, talking about their frustration and anger, ...

Pope names Minnesota priest as auxiliary bishop of Hartford

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Pope Francis has appointed Father Juan M. Betancourt, a priest in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, as auxiliary bishop ...

Listening church: Pope gives new vision for Synod of Bishops

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Synod of Bishops increasingly should be a structure for listening to the Catholic faithful, demonstrating a local bishop's concern ...

Director of Courage releases letter on Penn. abuse report

Washington D.C., Sep 17, 2018 CNA.- Courage International, an apostolate to support people with same sex-attraction in leading chaste lives, has issued ...

Richmond bishop apologizes to victims; commits to opening, reviewing files

RICHMOND, Va. (CNS) -- In celebrating the Diocese of Richmond's first Mass of Atonement for victims of abuse Sept. 14, Bishop Barry C. Knestout apologized ...

Advocates decry historically low cap for refugee entry in 2019

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Advocates for refugee admissions into the United States decried what one statement called a historically low cap of 30,000 for fiscal ...