11 July 2013
Velma Harasen, former national president of the Catholic Women’s League of Canada, meets children at the Infant Welfare Center in Jerusalem. (photo: CNEWA)
Velma Harasen is the past national president of the Catholic Women’s League (C.W.L.) of Canada. We asked for her reflections after participating in the C.W.L.’s Holy Land pilgrimage with CNEWA. She shares her thoughts below:
What a blessing, what a gift to have journeyed in pilgrimage to the Holy Land with a small group that soon became like family. My daughter, Lori, was my accompanying family.
Our guide Alex, a Palestinian Christian, was an amazing source of information and referred to Bible readings at the various holy sites that we visited. A tearful departure spoke volumes of the love and respect we had for him.
Father Geoff celebrated Mass for us and truly served as our spiritual leader, including when we renewed our baptismal promises at the river Jordan. He may never know how much he meant to all of us but hopefully our gift of the handmade purple stole expressed our thanks.
I have been to the Holy Land twice before but this pilgrimage was very special to me. We met, mingled and ate with the Christians of the Holy Land and learned more about their daily struggles. Life is not easy!
In a local parish in Reineh, we attended a Latin Mass celebrated in Arabic and were treated to a reception afterward. We visited a number of projects supported by CNEWA, plus the two projects that were part of Velma’s Dream.
The Shepherds’ Field Hospital in Beit Sahour is operated by the Cooperative Society for Health Welfare, which is comprised of local families maintaining the hospital for the poor of the area, mainly pregnant women and babies. With limited resources, they serve their community with Christian love. We met the board, the midwife, nurse and a doctor who volunteers his time.
In a very small, sparse labor and delivery room with two narrow beds, I wondered aloud how they could manage should there be two mothers in labor at the same time! The response: “Sometimes we have three; we can manage!” The board is working hard to build a larger facility and was proud to show us the excavation!
The Infant Welfare Center is in the heart of Old City of Jerusalem. Children from the age of 4 months to 5 years are accommodated in the daycare. When we were there, the babies were enjoying their afternoon nap. However, we spent time with the older ones assembling puzzles, talking and singing. One class made thank you cards for each of us while, in another class, we joined in singing “Row, Row, Row Your Boat”! The center also operates programs for teens to keep them in school and off the streets.
I was affirmed that both these projects supported by the Catholic Women’s League were worthy and our donations were put to very good use! We have made a difference!
11 July 2013
Tags: Children Holy Land Israel Pilgrimage/pilgrims Holy Land Christians
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Youths from the South Hebron Hills kick around a soccer ball at summer camp in the West Bank village of Tuba on 28 June. The camp is a welcome break for Palestinian children. Read more about the summer camp at this link. (photo: CNS/Debbie Hill)
11 July 2013
Tags: Children Palestine Palestinians West Bank
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Bulgarian Orthodox Metropolitan Kalinik, 82, was ordained bishop in 1971 and elected the metropolitan of Vratsa in 1974. (photo: Bulgarian Orthodox Church)
Bulgarian Orthodox Church elects interim Varna metropolitan (Novinite) The Holy Synod of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church elected Wednesday, after a 2-hour emergency sitting, Vratsa metropolitan Kalinik as interim metropolitan of Varna and Veliki Preslav. Metropolitan Kalinik is to temporarily replace the late Varna Metropolitan Kiril whose body was discovered on a beach near Varna on Tuesday. Bulgarian clergy maintain that the cause of death was most likely hypothermia, contrary to early suspicions of foul play. Metropolitan Kalinik will assume the post after the traditional 40 days of respect for the deceased…
Second Christian in a week murdered in Egypt (Times of Israel) Security officials say suspected militants have killed a Christian merchant in the northern Sinai Peninsula. They said 60-year-old Magdy Habashi was abducted last Saturday from the town of Sheikh Zweid. His decapitated body was found early Thursday in a cemetery. Habashi is the second Christian to be killed in northern Sinai in less than a week. Coptic Christian priest Mina Aboud Sharween was gunned down by suspected militants last Saturday as he walked in an outdoor market. There has been a backlash against Christians by Islamist militants for their activism against former President Morsi…
Syrian Christians become kidnapping targets, flee to Lebanon (Global Post) While the war has increased animosity between Sunni and Shia, it has also devastated Syria’s Christians, some of whom have now fled to Lebanon. Their story is rarely told. When the Syrian uprising broke out in March 2011, Christians remained neutral or sided with Assad. They saw that Muslim extremists — both Shia and Sunni — had driven Christians out of Iraq after the US invasion of 2003. They feared a similar crisis in Syria. Even in the early months of the uprising, some local Sunnis were chanting the slogan, “Christians to Beirut, Alawites to the tabout [coffin]”…
In Aleppo, hunger stirs protestation against rebel blockade (AsiaNews) Citizens of Aleppo have been spurred to protest against the blockade imposed by the rebels on the districts controlled by the government. “We lack food and medicine,” shout the inhabitants of the neighborhood of Bustan al Qasr, “the people want an end to the blockade.” According to the Syrian Observatory for human rights, protests against the scarcity of basic necessities began early Tuesday, 9 July, when dozens of protesters gathered near a checkpoint. In the protest, one demonstrator has allegedly been killed, struck by a bullet in the head; it is still unclear whether he was shot by the rebels themselves or by an army sniper…
Chaldean patriarch extends greetings to Muslims in honor of Ramadan (AsiaNews) “On behalf of myself and of all the of Christians of Iraq, I extend my best wishes to all Muslim men and women for the beginning of this blessed month,” said Chaldean Patriarch Louis Raphael I in an address to his brothers and sisters of Islam at the start of Ramadan. His Beatitude wishes that it will be a time of “doing good and peace” for the country and its inhabitants. He stressed the primary duty to preserve “our national unity” and adopt a “language of dialogue in solving problems” — because, the Patriarch added, “we are one community, despite our diversity…”
10 July 2013
Tags: Egypt Syrian Civil War Violence against Christians Bulgarian Orthodox Church Chaldean Patriarch Louis Raphael I
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Women from the village of Manhari weave religious articles in a program supported by the local eparchy. (photo: Sean Sprague)
While much of Egypt is in turmoil, faith somehow endures. Several years ago, writer-photographer Sean Sprague visited a Coptic Christian village in Upper Egypt for a closer look:
“People here,” [Father Matta] asserted as we strolled through the muddy lanes of Manhari, “don’t experience Islamic extremist aggression, but they do feel economically repressed.
“Many families cannot support themselves, although there are some wealthy Coptic families.”
Father Matta’s family, however, is not one of the wealthy ones. Typically, Eastern Catholic married priests in the Middle East must also hold down jobs outside the parish to support the family, thereby reducing the parish burden. The priest’s wife, in addition to rearing a family, must also work.
Father Matta led me on a tour of Manhari’s four-story Catholic Social Services Center. Here, working parents leave their children in a well-run kindergarten. School dropouts improve their reading and writing skills while young women learn to weave tapestries. The center offers additional vocational training in its tailoring workshop. Mothers and their children receive medical care in a mother-child clinic and the center conducts courses in health and hygiene.
“The villagers survive by raising livestock — cattle, buffalo, sheep and goats — and by growing clover for fodder,” Father Matta said. “Fuul, or fava beans, and wheat provide the Egyptian staple diet. They grow in fields around the village,” he added.
…A few miles from Manhari at an Orthodox church, which once served a monastic community, we met a priest revered by all Copts — Orthodox, Catholic and Protestant — Father Yacoub, an old man with a long white beard. Father Matta greeted him with elaborate embraces and kisses. Father Yacoub sat in virtual silence while we drank tea and spoke with his young colleague, Father Bola. His eyes gleamed with obvious pleasure at our visit.
“Relations between Orthodox and Catholic Copts in Manhari are warm,” Father Bola said, taking a sip of his sweetened tea.
“Caritas serves the entire community. Intermarriage is common. So it doesn’t really make much difference which church you are from. We are all from the same cloth.”
Read more on Upper Egypt’s Copts from the July 2002 issue of the magazine.
10 July 2013
Tags: Egypt Coptic Orthodox Church Coptic Christians Copts Coptic Catholic Church
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Egyptian Copts gather for the funeral procession of Rev. Mina Aboud Sharween, a victim of sectarian violence, on Monday, 8 July 2013. (photo: The Coptic Orthodox Church)
Christians fear the new Egyptian constitution will be equally divisive (Fides) Christian churches in Egypt are expressing concerns over the temporary constitution enacted by decree on Monday by the Egyptian president ad interim, Adly Mansour. The ecclesiastical hierarchy is likely to announce its official position soon. “We are concerned. … The provisions that in the old constitution seemed bad in the eyes of Christians are highlighted in the new text. If we do not speak now, we will not be able to say anything,” says Coptic Catholic Bishop Botros Fahim Awad Hanna of Minya. What worries Christians is in particular is Article 1 of the new constitutional declaration, which refers to Sharia as a basic source of legislation adds that the interpretation of the Sharia law should be in accordance with the body of laws developed in the early centuries of Islam. In this step the content of Article 219 of the previous constitution is retrieved, which at the time was the center of the disputes of Christians, ultimately resulting in the withdrawal of their representatives from the constitutional assembly in protest. In addition, from the provisional Constitution enacted by Mansour, former Article 3 has disappeared, which guaranteed Christians and Jews the opportunity to use their own canonical principles to regulate personal issues and religious aspects of their communities…
Egypt orders arrest of top Muslim Brotherhood, Islamist officials (Washington Post) Egypt’s top prosecutor has ordered the arrest of the Muslim Brotherhood’s spiritual leader and nine other top Islamist officials for allegedly instigating violence that led to the killing of more than 50 demonstrators Monday. The arrest warrants for Brotherhood supreme guide Muhammad Badie and the others came a day after interim President Adly Mansour appointed a prime minister and vice president, moves designed to lend an air of normalcy to the country even as indications mounted that the president is little more than a civilian face for military rule. Mansour also has outlined a path to quick elections and a return to democracy after the 3 July coup that overthrew Egypt’s first freely elected president, Muhammad Morsi…
Women deacons in the Armenian Apostolic Church: a history (Armenian Weekly) Women deacons, an ordained ministry, have served the Armenian Apostolic Church for centuries. In some instances, the mission of the Armenian deaconesses was educating, caring for orphans and the elderly, assisting the indigent, comforting the bereaved, and addressing women’s issues. They served in convents and cathedrals, and the general population. Their vestments are exactly like those of nuns or sisters, except that on their forehead they have a cross; their stole hangs from over the right shoulder. The woman deacon served on the altar, as did her male counterpart, and the bishop did not limit her liturgical service to convent churches only…
St. Andrew’s Cross to be delivered to Belarus (Belarus Telegraph Agency) The cross on which the Apostle Andrew the First-Called was crucified will be delivered to Minsk. By decision of the Holy Synod of the Belarusian Exarchate, the relic will be on display in the Apostle Andrew Church and the Church of All Saints in Minsk from 29 July to 2 August, BelTA learned from the Minsk Eparchy of the Belarusian Orthodox Church. This relic is ordinarily kept at an Orthodox church in Patras, Greece, in Peloponnese. The cross will be brought to St. Petersburg, Moscow, Kiev and Minsk. “The event is meant to remind us that the spiritual life of the three nations has the same roots — the blessing St. Andrew gave in the first century and the christening in Kiev in 988,” said an official statement from the Belarusian Orthodox Church…
Regional upheaval prompts Israeli Arab Christians form new political party (The Times of Israel) Christian Arab citizens of Israel are forming a new political party. The party’s Hebrew name — B’nei Brit Hahadasha — means “Sons of the New Testament,” although the word “allies” is hidden in the title as well. The effort is part of a growing assertiveness on the part of Christian Arabs in the wake of the Arab Spring, as they increasingly sound calls for an identity distinct from Israel’s broader Arab society, which is around 90 percent Muslim. According to its Facebook page, the party’s platform includes full integration of Christians in all fields, peace with a democratic Palestinian state and all of Israel’s neighbors, increased tourism and trade, and the return of Israelis who have left the country…
9 July 2013
Tags: Egypt Israel Egypt's Christians Saints Women Religious in Europe
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In this image from 2009, a Palestinian woman prays on the first Friday of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan in front of the Dome of the Rock in the Old City of Jerusalem. The Dome of the Rock, an Islamic shrine, also has significance to Jews and Christians. (photo: CNS/Ammar Awad, Reuters)
Muslims around the world are marking the beginning of Ramadan. Two years ago, Rev. Elias D. Mallon, S.A., Ph.D., CNEWA’s external affairs officer, wrote about what this month means and how it is observed:
Ramadan is the most important event of the year for Muslims. There are five pillars of Islam: the šahada, or creed that there is one and only God and Muhammad is his messenger; salat, or the five daily prayers;zakat, or almsgiving; sawm, or fasting during Ramadan; and hajj, or the pilgrimage to Mecca.
Ramadan and Eid ul Fitr, the feast ending it, have become increasingly visible in Europe and North America in the past two decades. Immigration has increased the number of Muslims in the West and more and more people are becoming aware of the monthlong fast and celebration.
In places where Muslims represent a religious minority, recognition of Ramadan and Eid ul Fitr increasingly symbolizes a degree of social acceptance by the majority. In the United States, for instance, the postal service issues a postage stamp for Eid ul Fitr every year. And more and more often, shops sell greeting cards for the holiday, and many non—Muslims now send or give them to their Muslim friends and neighbors.
During the 28 days of Ramadan, Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset. The fast begins at dawn when one can distinguish a white thread from a black one (Quran 2:188) and ends when the sun has set below the horizon. The fast is absolute n that nothing enters the body. Thus, fasting excludes not only eating food but also drinking fluids, smoking and sexual activity.
Since the month of Ramadan moves “backward” through the solar year, it occurs at some point in every season of the year in any given location. In the summer in both northern and southern latitudes, days can be quite long and the fast can go on for more than 15 hours. If 15 hours without food is difficult, 15 hours in the summer without water is even more so.
In many places in the Muslim world, the end of the day’s fast is announced by a cannon shot or some other major public announcement after the sun sets, informing people they may now engage in iftar, or the breaking of the fast. Muslims often first eat a date to break the fast, as did Muhammad. The nightly meals during Ramadan are often quite festive and families gather and enjoy specially prepared dishes.
Read more from the September 2011 issue of ONE.
9 July 2013
Tags: Muslim Islam Ramadan
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In this 9 December photo, Bulgarian Orthodox Metropolitan Kiril of Varna and Veliki Preslav celebrates the Divine Liturgy at Sveti Sedmochislenitsi Church (The Church of Seven Saints) in Sofia. (photo: The Bulgarian Orthodox Church)
Bulgarian bishop found drowned, foul play suspected (France24) A powerful and controversial Bulgarian Orthodox Church metropolitan was found dead on a Black Sea beach on Tuesday. Metropolitan Kiril was initially thought to have died from drowning but Bulgarian state radio, citing police and prosecutors, said the 59-year-old’s death appears suspicious. An autopsy was being carried out to determine the cause of death, which happened in the city of Varna, the diocese the bishop represented. Kiril was one of the best-known members of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church…
Praying: the Catholic and the Muslim way (Vatican Radio) Jesuit Professor Father Felix Körner is a scholar engaged in dialogue with Muslim theologians in an effort to build bridges between Christians and Muslims and to improve mutual understanding. To mark the beginning of Ramadan, Veronica Scarisbrick speaks to Professor Körner, who currently teaches interreligious theology at the Jesuit-run Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome…
Crisis conditions spur provisional Egyptian government to action (AsiaNews) Continuing protests and 51 deaths since Monday, 8 July, have pushed Adly Mansour, interim Egyptian president, to advance the date of the election. Within seven months, the country will return to the polls. The official date remains to be announced within the next few weeks, during which time the members of the new parliament will attempt to improve the nation’s constitution…
Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood rejects timetable (Al Jazeera) The Muslim Brotherhood party has rejected the transition timetable set out by the military-backed interim president. Essam al Erian, a senior Brotherhood figure and deputy head of its Freedom and Justice Party, the political arm of the Muslim Brotherhood, rejected the transition timetable on Tuesday, saying it takes the country “back to zero.” On his Facebook page, al Erian wrote that “the people created their constitution with their votes,” referring to the constitution that Islamists pushed to finalization and then was passed in a national referendum during former President Mohamed Morsi’s year in office…
Wounded dying for lack of medicine in Syria’s Homs, activists say (Daily Star Lebanon) People wounded in fighting between rebels and regime troops in the central Syrian city of Homs are dying for lack of medical equipment, activists said on Tuesday. “The army’s continuous bombardment over the past 11 days has made the critical humanitarian situation in rebel areas of Homs even worse,” Syrian Observatory for Human Rights director Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP. “An unknown number of rebels and civilians wounded in recent days are dying from their injuries, because there is no medical equipment to treat them,” he added…
8 July 2013
Tags: Egypt Syrian Civil War Bulgarian Orthodox Church Catholic-Muslim relations Democracy
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Pope Francis carries a pastoral staff carved from the wood of a shipwrecked boat as he celebrates Mass in Lampedusa, Italy on 8 July. The pope said he decided to visit the small island 70 miles from Tunisia after seeing newspaper headlines in June describing the drowning of African immigrants at sea. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
In a powerful and historic trip that focused world attention on the plight of immigrants, Pope Francis traveled to an island off Italy to celebrate Mass. It was a visit rich with symbolism. CNS has details:
Before saying a word publicly, Pope Francis made the sign of the cross and tossed a wreath of white and yellow flowers into the Mediterranean Sea in memory of the estimated 20,000 African immigrants who have died in the past 25 years trying to reach a new life in Europe.
Just a few hours before Pope Francis arrived on the Italian island of Lampedusa 8 July, the Italian coast guard accompanied another boat carrying immigrants to the island’s port.
The 165 immigrants, one of whom said they were originally from Mali, had spent two days at sea making the crossing from North Africa; the immigrants were accompanied to a government reception center, a locked facility where 112 people — half under the age of 18 — already were being housed. Most will be repatriated, although a few may receive refugee status.
In his homily at an outdoor Mass, Pope Francis said he decided to visit Lampedusa, a small island with a population of 6,000 and just 70 miles from Tunisia, after seeing newspaper headlines in June describing the drowning of immigrants at sea.
“Those boats, instead of being a means of hope, were a means of death,” he said.
Wearing purple vestments, like those used during Lent, and using the prayers from the Mass for the Forgiveness of Sins, Pope Francis said the deaths of the immigrants are “like a thorn in the heart,” which spurred him to offer public prayers for them, but also to try to awaken people’s consciences. …
The Mass was filled with reminders that Lampedusa is now synonymous with dangerous attempts to reach Europe: the altar was built over a small boat; the pastoral staff the pope used was carved from wood recycled from a shipwrecked boat; the lectern was made from old wood as well and had a ship’s wheel mounted on the front; and even the chalice — although lined with silver — was carved from the wood of a wrecked boat.
“Who among us has wept” for the immigrants, for the dangers they faced and for the thousands who died at sea, the pope asked. “The globalization of indifference has taken from us the ability to weep.”
“Let us ask the Lord for the grace to weep over our indifference, to weep over the cruelty in the world, in ourselves, and even in those who anonymously make socio-economic decisions that open the way to tragedies like this,” Pope Francis said.
8 July 2013
Tags: Pope Francis Immigration Italy
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A protester calling for the removal of Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi holds up a copy of the Quran and a cross during a rally at Cairo’s Tahrir Square on 5 July. Egypt’s Catholic leaders welcomed the ouster of the Islamist president and pledged to help “rebuild democracy” under army rule. (photo: CNS/Khaled Abdullah, Reuters)
Churches welcome Morsi’s ousting (The Tablet) The head of the Coptic Orthodox Church, Pope Tawadros II, has praised the campaign that ousted the country’s elected president and leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, Mohamed Morsi, on Thursday evening. Pope Tawadros, the leader of the largest religious minority in Egypt, said that Egyptian people had recovered their “stolen revolution” — a reference to how the Arab Spring of 2011 had led to an increasingly hardline Islamist government. Morsi was officially deposed from office at 7 p.m. local time on Thursday following a week of protests at his rule and the intervention of the Egyptian military…
Egypt security forces kill dozens of pro-Morsi protesters (Los Angeles Times) Soldiers and security forces opened fire on an encampment of anti-military protesters outside the barricades at the Republican Guard headquarters. “We were praying, and … we were surprised by gun fire and tear gas all around us,” said Mahmoud Mohamed, a lawyer who was shot in the arm. “We had women and children with us. … They didn’t give us a chance to retreat.” It is not clear what led to the onslaught that killed at least 42 people and injured hundreds. A military statement said a “terrorist group” attempted to storm the Republican Guard facility, killing one soldier and wounding 40…
Jesuit’s appeal for peace during Ramadan (Fides) “The holy month of Ramadan is a time of penance and conversion to God and is a time to ask our brothers and sisters’ forgiveness. We ask the grace of repentance for everyone. We ask it while claiming respect for law and justice,” said Jesuit Father Paolo dall’Oglio in an appeal to the end the war in Syria and sectarian conflicts in other Middle Eastern countries — conflicts that exist from Pakistan to Lebanon, “as well as those of ideological confessional nature that are taking place from Egypt to Morocco, costing enormous losses and disfiguring the face of Islam…”
Leaders should serve the people, says Bulgarian patriarch (Independent Balkan News Agency) Bulgarian Orthodox Patriarch Neofit says that God puts people in positions of leadership not to satisfy their personal ambitions and goals but to be their servant. Neofit, elected patriarch in February 2013 at the time of the earlier protests that were mobilized around cost-of-living issues, was speaking against a background of continuing anti-government protests. While standing back from taking sides, the patriarch earlier issued a message to the current protesters in which he extended his blessing to them. “When one is empowered to make decisions that affect many people, one must be very careful and responsible, especially humbled by the consciousness of his human weakness and imperfection,” Patriarch Neofit said…
Czechs mark Sts. Cyril and Methodius anniversary (Prague Daily Monitor) Almost 80,000 pilgrims, including President Milos Zeman, visited the Days of Good Will People celebrations of the 1150th anniversary of the arrival of Sts. Cyril and Methodius as missionaries in Great Moravia Friday, festival secretary Josef Korenek has said. Some 60,000 people attended a liturgy for pilgrims on Friday, Korenek added. Bishops from Bohemia, Moravia and Silesia along with 11 foreign bishops, among others from Germany, Russia and Ukraine, took part in the event. St. Cyril or Constantine (827-869) and St. Methodius (825-885), “the apostles of the Slavs,” were two Greek brothers from Thessalonica. As missionaries they spread Christianity, but they also translated biblical and liturgical text into the comprehensible, old Slavonic language. They invented a scripture for this purpose, called Glagolitic, that was later transformed into Cyrillic that it is still in use in the Orthodox Church…
3 July 2013
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Our pilgrims gather at the Jordan River. (photo: CNEWA)
On 29 June, the C.W.L. and CNEWA pilgrimage group headed to the Jordan River, where according to Scripture John the Baptist baptized Jesus with water “in Bethany Beyond the Jordan, where John was baptizing.” (John 1:28)
Since our pilgrimage took us only to Israel and Palestine, we stayed on the west bank of the river, across from the Jordanian park Pope John Paul II had inaugurated in the year 2000. As with most of the Holy Sites we visited, the Israeli site marking Jesus’ baptism has its own history. Unlike most, it is an Israeli National Park and is not cared for by the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land or the Greek Orthodox and Armenian Apostolic patriarchates.
The site has been open for only two years. Since the conclusion of the Six Day War in 1967, when Israel took control of the Palestinian territories of Gaza and the West Bank, the entire border has been a military zone with fences, mines and soldiers.
Thankfully, we were privileged to drive to the site — well below sea level — under a scorching sun without any problems. Father Geoffrey Kerslake led us in prayer as we renewed our baptismal vows, and afterward invited us to take a dip in the river. It was an emotional experience as we then headed for the desert, the same desert where Jesus retreated for 40 days.
Tags: Palestine Holy Land Israel Jordan Pilgrimage/pilgrims
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