This morning we depart the Magdala Centre and say ‘Go dti an cheid uair eile – Until the next time’
Thank you Fr Juan Solano L.C. Director and Fr Eamon Kelly, Fr Donal Corry and Fr Donal O’Keeffe Irish born members of the Congregation of the Legionaries of Christ for your very warm welcome and blessing, as we depart to the West Bank parishes of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem.
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This morning we visited the village of BURQIN, in the West Bank to enter the 4th oldest Church in the world, the Church of Saint George, under the control of the Greek Orthodox Church
It is built on the site believed to be the location where Jesus performed the miracle of healing the 10 lepers.
Of the 10 lepers healed, only one returned to thank Jesus for the cure.
Luke 17: 11-19
During our visit to the Monastery of St George in Burqin, we met with the resident priest and sarcistan who explained the history of the Church and miracle of Jesus curing the 10 lepers.
We were invited to enjoy the tranquility and shade of the garden and provided with coffee and biscuits.
Following our departure from the Monastery of St George in Burqin, we travelled further south through the West Bank towards Nablus, to visit the Latin Church of Saint Justin in Rafidia.
The Latin Church was constructed in 1885 at the same place as a previous church, and named after Saint Justin who was born in Nablus in 110 and martyred defending rights and freedom in 165.
When we visited, we met with sister Emerenta, Holy Rosary Sister, who explained in more detail the major construction works required to maintain the Church and sustain the very small Latin Catholic community resident in Rafidia.
- Population: 250,000
- Christians 650
- Latin Christians 200
Departing Rafidia, we drove south further deep into the West Bank to Birzeit, close to Ramallah.
We returned to visit Immaculate Conception Church of Birzeit Latin Parish and were welcomed warmly by Abouna Louis Hazboun; the school principal; two Junior Seminarians Rajae Musallam & Fadi Kamal Yasser; Sisters of the Congregation of the Rosary; teachers, staff and students of the kindergarten, primary and secondary schools.
We met with Adeeb Ibrahim, Head Engineer with The Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem who gave us a very detailed presentation on the major refurbishment works recently undertaken in 2022, to repair the Church roof and interior walls, a project funded by the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem -Lieutenancy of Ireland
We visited then the parish hall, adjacent to the church which had major refurbishment works undertaken in 2019, to facilitate its use as a multi-purpose hall, again funded by the Lieutenancy of Ireland.
Following inspection of the refurbishment works in Birzeit Latin Parish Church and Hall, we were invited to join Abouna Louis Hazboun in his private residence for a sumptuous lunch of local Arab food and we had an opportunity to taste the local beer and coffee.
During lunch, Abouna Louis gave us a very enlightening presentation and practical display of how the first Stone Age inhabitants of the Holy Land hunted and prepared food. It was a real honour to view the Stone Age artifacts on loan from Birzeit museum.
Following lunch, we were delighted to be served local ice cream which the Lieutenancy of Ireland had gifted to the school community.
Departing Birzeit, we travelled then to nearby Taybeh, the only Christian village in Palestine with a 100% Christian population.
It is reported that Jesus visited Taybeh (Ephraim) many times, including after he raised Lazarus from the dead and prior to his Passion in Jerusalem
At the time of our visit we were honoured to meet with His Beatitude Emeritus Michael Sabbah; Bishop Emeritus Monsignor Kamal Hanna Bathish, Mother Superior Sister Maria Pia and Sister Maria Alma from the Sisters of the Word Incarnate, both natives of Argentina.
We were entertained by His Beatitude Emeritus Michael, who recalled fondly his many visits and interaction with the Lieutenancy of Ireland in times past.
We discussed also the fire safety alarm and water sprinkler works to be undertaken soon at the Home, a project identified by the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem and funded by the Lieutenancy of Ireland.
We were then introduced to the elderly residents, a number of whom spoke English; including Chevalier Roland Pickering, a Knight of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem.
Mother Superior Pia thanked the members of the Lieutenancy for their visit, financial support and gift of lunch for the 20 residents and staff.
After a long day visiting the ‘living stones’ in the West Bank parishes of Burqin, Rafidia, Birzeit and Taybeh we arrived in Jerusalem.
We are fortunate to be staying at the Pontifical Institute Notre Dame of Jerusalem Centre, for a few days.
After checking in, we went to the chapel on the first floor where Holy Mass was concelebrated by Fr Francis Mitchell, Archdiocese of Tuam, Fr Feargal Mc Grady, Diocese of Down and Connor and Archbishop Kieran O’Reilly, Archdiocese of Cashel.
Today was the Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary – September 8th – Happy Birthday Blessed Mother
Following Holy Mass, we dined in Notre Dame restaurant.
His Excellency Mr Kyle O’Sullivan, Ambassador of Ireland to the State of Israel; His Excellency Mr Don Sexton, Ambassador of Ireland to the State of Palestine; Mr Sami El-Yousef, Chief Executive of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem were our honoured guests.
We were privileged to have them each brief us on the current political, economic and religious aspects pertaining to everyday life in the Holy Land.