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Pilgrimage 2022 - From Ireland to the Holy Land

Day 8

This morning Monday, Day 8 of our Pilgrimage, we departed Jerusalem, to travel by bus to Jordan 🇯🇴
Prior to our departure from the Pontifical Institute Notre Dame of Jerusalem Centre, we were awarded a Pilgrim Certificate by the Ministry of Tourism of Israel 🇮🇱
We travelled north, towards Galilee and crossed from Israel into Jordan at the Sheikh Hussein Centre crossing.
On arrival in Jordan, we drove directly to Al-Maghtas, the Baptismal Site known as 'Bethany Beyond Jordan', where Jesus was baptised by his cousin John. 

Matthew 3: 13-17

Holy Mass was concelebrated on the banks of the River Jordan by Archbishop Kieran O'Reilly, Archbishop of Cashel and Emly; Fr Francis Mitchell, Archdiocese of Tuam and Fr Ferghal Mc Grady,  Diocese of Down and Connor.
We pilgrims took the opportunity of renewing our baptismal vows, at this most sacred site.

After renewing our Baptismal vows, we drove directly to Mount Nebo, an elevated ridge approximately 710 metres above sea level.
Mount Nebo is mentioned in the Bible as the place where Moses was granted a view of the Promised Land before his death.

Maccabees 2: 4-7

We were fortunate to have a very clear, cloudless, day and had an excellent panoramic view of the Promised Land, which we just spent 7 days exploring.
We entered the Memorial Church of Moses and viewed the 6th century Byzantine mosiac in the Diakonikon Baptistry depth colourful hunting and Pastoral scenes. 
Departing Mount Nebo, we drove to Amman, where we will be staying for the next to nights in the comfort of the Rosary Sisters' Visitation Home.
On arrival, we were greeted warmly by the Sister Antoinette Kalanzeh, Mother Superior; Sister Christina Masarweh, Saoud, the Reception  Manager from Lebanon and Beatrice, Receptionist, was visiting from Ghana.

Leaving Mt Nebo arriving at the Rosary Sisters Visitation Centre in Amman.

Day 7

On Sunday morning, we arrived by bus at the Church of Dominus Flevit on the Mount of Olives, overlooking Jerusalem.
We admired the beautiful panorama and had a group photograph taken. We continued then by foot downhill to the Church of All Nations, situated at the Garden of Gethsemene.
Holy Mass was concelebrated by Archbishop Kieran O'Reilly, Archdiocese of Cashel and Emly; Fr Francis Mitchell, Archdiocese of Tuam and Fr Ferghal Mc Grady, Diocese of Down and Connor.
Our Musical Director, Dame Mairéad Walls arranged for the signing of beautiful hymns, including Our Lady Queen of Heaven, the sound of which was enhanced greatly by the wonderful acoustic reverberations of the Church interior.
We then walked uphill to the nearby Cenacle 'Upper Room', the location where the Last Supper was celebrated by Jesus for his Disciples, the evening before His Crucifixion.
We were very fortunate to be welcomed by the Franciscan Friar Jakab Varnai, Custodian of the Church, who allowed us direct entry to the complex, on which is situated adjacent to the Upper Room, the Church of Dormition and Tomb of King David.

Leaving the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, we took a bus to Bethlehem to visit The Creche of the Daughters of Charity of St Vincent de Paul, a refuge for abandoned children in the town where the Christ Jesus was born.
The Creche is less than a 15 minute walk to the Church of the Nativity. 
Here we were warmly welcomed back by Sister Denise Abu Haider, Superior in Charge; Mr  Iskandar Andon, the Social Worker and Mr George Tawil, the Administrator who coordinates and acknowledges all donations received.
Leading our pilgrimage group was Dame Veronica Holohan, DCHS who has an established relationship with the Creche, having collected substantial sums of financial donation through her volunteer knitting group in Dublin.
Iskandar, the Social Worker, briefed us on the current situation and allowed us the Blessed opportunity to greet the most recently arrived new born infant, who was abandoned 4 weeks ago.
As we toured the Creche we frequently met with Sr Denise, walking hand in hand with groups of toddlers with excited eyes and anticipated hope.
After a group photograph, we departed the Creche,  reminded how fortunate we are each day not to be have been abandoned without the daily love, touch and companionship of one's mother.

Departing the Creche is always emotional, but it helped that we were going straight to the special needs school Hogar Ninos Dios that welcomes disabled children in the Bethlehem area.
This home  like The Creche, is located just a 10 minute walk downhill from The Church of the Nativity.
Waiting to greet us was the Mother Superior, Sister Ronces, from the Sisters of the Word Incarnate, of Argentinan descent.
Sister Ronces invited us to meet with the residents and staff, with whom we bonded immediately or should I say they bonded with us instantly, high five ✋ smiles, hugs freely exchanged.
Sister Ronces briefed us on their desperate situation and need for financial support. 
The Staff, Children and Sisters literally pray each day for essential items:, food, personal hygiene materials, clothing, birthday presents, bills that need paying,
It was one of the highlights of our pilgrimage, to observe with humility and be grateful for what we have and what we can contribute towards.

Day 6

Following breakfast, we drove to Lion's Gate in the Old City where our tour guide, Bader Abu-George Rabadi, gave us a brief account of the city walls construction and design.
We then walked to the Church of St Anne, at the beginning of the Via Dolorosa, the site believed by the Crusaders to be the childhood home of the Virgin Mary, mother of Jesus.
The grounds which contain the Church of St Anne and the adjacent two pools or Bethesda are under French jurisdiction. 
On arrival we were met by Fr David Williams a member of the Missionarirs of Africa, more commonly known as the 'White Fathers'.
Fr David, who hails from Dublin, Ireland gave us a tour of the grounds and explained the history and religious significance of the site.
It is believed to be the home of Mary, the mother of Jesus, and the site where Jesus performed the miracle of curing the disabled man.
After visiting the Church of St Anne, built on the home of the Virgin Mary, and viewing the pools of Bethesda, at the beginning of the Via Dolorosa, we walked up the hill of the Via Dolorosa to the Church of Condemnation and Flagellation - the 2nd Station of the Cross
Holy Mass was concelebrated by Archbishop Kieran O'Reilly, Archdiocese of Cashel and Emly; Fr Francis Mitchell Archdiocese of Tuam and Fr Ferghal Mc Grady, Diocese of Down and Connor.
Our pilgrimage director Dr Frank Hurl arranged for a cross to be presented to our pilgrim group to enable us re-enact the Passion of Christ Jesus.
We commenced the Stations of the Cross:
Station 1 ✝️ Jesus is condemned to death
Station 2 ✝️ Jesus carries his Cross
Station 3 ✝️ Jesus falls the first time
Station 4 ✝️ Jesus meets his mother
Station 5 ✝️ Simon of Cyrene helps to carry his cross
Station 6 ✝️ Veronica wipes the face of Jesus
Station 7 ✝️ Jesus falls the second time
Station 8 ✝️ Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem
Station 9 ✝️ Jesus falls a third time
Station 10 ✝️ Jesus clothes are taken away
Station 11 ✝️ Jesus is nailed to the cross
Station 12 ✝️ Jesus dies on the cross
Station 13 ✝️ The body of Jesus is taken down from the cross
Station 14 ✝️ Jesus is laid in the tomb
Having completed the 14 Stations of the Cross, we were within the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem.
Time was allocated in our programme timetable to enable the Knights, Dames and for our friends to explore the various chapels and holy sites.
We descended the steps to the St Helena Chapel where the True Cross was found.

Day 5

Friday morning, early start.
Process through the streets of he Christian Quarter in our cloaks towards the Church of the Holy Sepulchre 
Along the way we met visiting pilgrims from Malta among whom was a prior and two Knights from the Lieutenancy of Malta - Deus lo vult.
Formal photograph on the steps adjacent to the Church entrance 
Solemn entry procession into the Church of the Holy Sepulchre to the Blessed Sarcrament Chapel under the stewardship of the Franciscan Custos.
Holy Mass was concelebrated by Fr Ferghal Mc Grady, Diocese of Down and Connor; Fr Francis Mitchell, Archdiocese of Tuam and Archbishop Kieran O'Reilly, Archdiocese of Cashel.
Following celebration of Holy Mass at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, we walked cloaked to the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, where we were welcomed immediately by our long time, dear friend Abdel Maseeh Younan, Administrator in the Chancellor’s office of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem.
We were escorted by Abdel into the reception room of the Latin Patriarchate, for the arrival of His Excellency Bishop William Shomali, General Vicar and Patriarchal Vicar of Jerusalem and Palestine.
Abdel had diligently prepared the Certificates and Pilgrim Shells to be awarded on behalf of the Latin Patriarch, by Bishop Shomali, to first time pilgrim members of our Lieutenancy.
His Excellency Bishop William Shomali, General Vicar and Patriarchal Vicar of Jerusalem and Palestine entered the reception room of the Latin Patriarchate to greet the Lieutenant of Ireland, His Excellency Peter Durnin; Dames, Knights, Clergy and friends of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem who were making the pilgrimage.
The Pilgrim Shell was pinned by Bishop Shomali onto the cloaks of Dames and Knights who were travelling, for the first time, to the Holy sites in the Holy Land.
Bishop Shomali called then upon our Pilgrimage Director, Chevalier Dr Frank Hall KC*HS, to receive the Pontifical Benemerenti medal in recognition of his dedicated service to the Catholic Church in the Holy Land.
The award was at the bequest of His Beatitude, Pierbattista Pizzaballa, Patriarch of the Holy Land.
A certificate, confirming the award, was presented also to Chevalier Dr Frank by Bishop William.
A visit to the Monastery of Saint Savior, the headquarters of the Custody of the Holy Land, followed.
We were received warmly by Diana from the offices of the Custos, who escorted us to a reception room, where our dear friend Fr Fergus Clarke, ofm, awaited us.
Fr Fergus updated us on the important work of the Custody in continuing to maintain the Holy sites.
Br Ibrahim Faltas, Custodian Vicar, arrived then to present the Leo Xiii decoration and certificates to a number of our pilgrim members who were participating on this pilgrimage.
As you have seen, we've been covering a lot of ground, visiting the Holy sites, meeting with the living stones and viewing the projects that the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem finance.
To maintain our stamina, we are fortunate to have been able to enjoy delicious local Palestinian food in high quality restaurants, selected by our excellent tour guide Bader Abu-George Rafidi.
In Beit Sahour, we visited 'Tent Restaurant' a spacious, hygienic, atmospheric and welcoming establishment with great views and delicious food.
Having enjoyed a delicious lunch, what next for the pilgrims ?
Shopping and Sightseeing of course !
One can never have enough jewellery, hand made olive wood cribs, statues and Rosary beads.
Supporting the local Palestinian traders is a very important aspect of Pilgrimage.
The covid pandemic resulted in great hardship for the community and hospitality trade, which rely so much on the tourist economy.
A number of our pilgrims took time also to explore Bethlehem by foot to visit the Banksy inspired 'Walled-Off Hotel' and had an opportunity to view the separation wall which has a devastating effect on the Palestinian communities in West Bank.
Prior to departing Bethlehem after a very hot but enjoyable afternoon, we drove over to nearby Beit Jala to visit the seminary.
Waiting at the entrance to meet us was Fr Bernard Pogge, Rector, who warmly greeted our pilgrimage group.
Fr Pogge briefed us on the history ofctge seminary, how the seminary functions, the formation process, logistical and bureaucratic issues that arise daily.
We were briefed also on the history and role of The Rosary Congregation which establised the first school for girls and work tirelessly to maintain access to education for every female student.
We were introduced then to Mr Issa J. Da'boub, founder and General Director of The Ectumenical Centre for Pilgrims and Biblical Studies.
We had then a 10 minute orientation visit around the seminary and learned about the printing press situated on the seminary grounds, with which the Lieutenancy of Ireland has had a very long and fruitful association.
Prior to departing the seminary, Fr Pogge arranged for chilled juice drinks and grapes to be served to all, which was very much appreciated.

Day 4

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.
View link below to join Fr Eamon Kelly L.C. on his 6am daily walk and reflection from the shore of the Sea of Galilee.
Podcast can be viewed at any time.
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.
He happened to be a Samarian
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.
We send our blessings and prayers to all the members of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem.
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.
The Church has been identified by the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem to be included in a substantial refurbishment project, to be funded by the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem.
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 were entertained with a traditional Arab musical performance by primary school children.
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
In Taybeh, we visited the Beit-Afram Elderly Home, managed by the Sisters of the Incarnate Word, which provides housing accommodation and medical assistance for 20 Christian residents.
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.

Day 3

Following visits to the Church of the Primacy of Saint Peter and the Church of the Beatitudes, we drove to Tabgha traditionally considered to be the site where Jesus worked one his most sensational miracles: the multiplication of the loaves and fishes. 
Luke 4: 38-4
We proceeded then to Capernaum, on the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee, the home of St Peter where Jesus conducted his ministry.
Mark 6: 34-45
For lunch we ate Peter's fish in the David's Harp Restaurant on the shore of the Sea of Galilee.
After lunch, we took a boat trip, a time of reflection, prayer hymns
The Gospel reading was performed by Chevalier Gerard Harbison
Mark 4: 35-41
Following the celebration of Holy Mass at the church of the Primacy of Saint Peter, we drove to the Mount of the Beatitudes to view the church where the eight Beatitudes are commemorated.
"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are they who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God.
Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."
Matthew 5: 1-13
This morning after a healthy breakfast at the Magdala Centre in Galilee, we visiting the Church of the Primacy of Saint Peter
Holy Mass was concelebrated by Fr Ferghal Mc Grady, Diocese of Down and Connor; Fr Francis Mitchell, Archdiocese of Tuam, and Archbishop Kieran O'Reilly, Archbishop of Cashel.
Sacred hymns were arranged by musical directors Dame Mairéad Walls and Chevalier Damien Walls and sung by pilgrims on the shore of the Sea of Galilee

Day 2

This afternoon, our pilgrimage group travelled to Nazareth to view the Basilica of the Assumption, believed to have been built above the home of the Virgin Mary.
It is one of the holiest sites in Christianity.
It is here that the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary and announced 'Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you!' And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call His name Jesus'.
Luke 1: 26-39
Holy Mass was concelebrated in the upper Basilica by Archbishop Kieran O'Reilly, Archbishop of Cashel; Fr Francis Mitchell, Archdiocese of Tuam and Fr Ferghal Mc Grady, Diocese of Down and Connor.
This afternoon we visited the Franciscan Wedding Church at Cana, Lower Galilee.
It is dedicated to the weddings of Christianity. Its name commemorates the event of the Wedding at Cana from the Gospel of John
On the site, it is believed that Jesus performed his first miracle, by turning water into wine at the request or behest of his mother Mary.
John 2: 1-12
Today 6 married couples among our pilgrimage group, renewed their marriage vows and received each a certificate of marriage renewal.
Archbishop Kieran O'Reilly, Archbishop of Cashel performed the renewal ceremony and blessings
Breakfast at the Magdala Centre. Refreshed after a good nights sleep.
Today we visit Mount Tabor, the location of the Transfiguration of Jesus.
'This is my son; my Chosen, listen to Him !
Like 9:28-37

Day 1

This morning 5th September 2022, the Lieutenancy of Ireland begins its Pilgrimage to the Holy Land 

We are blessed to return to the Land of Jesus and to meet again the 'living stones' in the parishes of the Latin Patriarchate.

Photos below show our Lieutenant His Excellency Peter Durnin, Spiritual Director Archbishop Kieran O'Reilly, Pilgrimage Director Dr Frank Hurl,  Knight and Dames from the Lieutenancy of Ireland prior to departure at Dublin Airport.

It is with great affection that the members of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem await the arrival of the Lieutenancy of Ireland Pilgrims.  

Photos below show Thomas Kilduff, KC*HS, Communications Officer for the Lieutenancy of Ireland with Bishop William Shomali, the General Vicar and Patriarchal Vicar for Jerusalem; Fr Elias Tabban, Endowments Officer; Fr Tarek Abu Hanna, Vice Rector Beit Jala Seminary; Mr Adeeb Ibrahim, Head of Engineering Department; Mr Sami El-Yousef, Chief Executive Officer; Mr George Akroush, Director of Projects Development Office; Sisters from the Oblates of Saint Martha with Fr David Meli, Chancellor and Fr Adib Ibrahim Zu'mot, former Chancellor L.P.J.

On the 12th September 2022, Archbishop Kieran O'Reilly,  Archdiocese of Cashel and Emly opened a new 4 classroom school extension at Mafraq Latin Parish in Jordan (Read more...)

Archbishop opens new 4 classroom School extension in Jordan

Today 12th September 2022, Archbishop Kieran O'Reilly,  Archdiocese of Cashel and Emly opened a new 4 classroom school extension at Mafraq Latin Parish in Jordan 🇯🇴

Archbishop Kieran is the Spiritual Director, leading the 2022 Holy Land Pilgrimage for the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem  - Lieutenancy of Ireland 🇮🇪

27 members and friends of the Order are currently in Jordan, part of their 10 day pilgrimage visiting Israel (Read more...),  Palestine and Jordan meeting with the 'living stones' in the parishes of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem 

The school in Mafraq is one of a number of projects that the Equestrian Order support financially.

Mafraq has a Christian community of only 500 faithful, in a city of 75, 000 population

The extension of the school serves the needs of the Latin Parish, as it ensures the continuation of a Christian presence in this part of the Holy Land. 

Without the school and the ongoing financial support, given by the Equestrian Order, the Christian population will be extinct as families would have been forced to move away from the area.

Extract of the Irish CatholicExtract of the Irish CatholicExtract of the Irish Catholic newspaper (15/09/2022), contributed by our Communications Officer, Thomas Kilduff, you will see some aspects of the Pilgrimage.

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Archbishop Kieran O'Reilly cutting the tape, at the 4 classroom school extension in Mafraq Latin Parish School   Fr Ferghal McGrady,  Diocese of Down and Connor; Mr Kareem Hassan, Engineer Latin Patriarchate; Fr Tareq Hijazin, Parish Priest of Mafraq: Archbishop Kieran O'Reilly, Archdiocese of Cashel and Emly; Chevalier Damien Walls, A D Group Chatered Surveyors Belfast; His Excellency Peter Durnin, Lieutenant of Ireland; Fr Francis Mitchell,  Archdiocese of Tuam.
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Chevalier Thomas Kilduff, Cavan; Chevalier Mark Kane, Tuam;  Dame Mairéad Walls; Toomebridge; H.E. Peter Durnin,  Drogheda; Mr Hazem Haddad,  Vice Principal Mafraq School , Chevalier Gearóid Williams, Clare; Mr Kareem Hassan, Engineer Latin Patriarchate and Fr Francis Mitchell,  Archdiocese of Tuam.     His Excellency Peter Durnin, Lieutenant of Ireland standing in front of the 4 classroom school extension

The Order's work in the Holy Land

   KHS Project - Holy Sepulchre - Bethlehem Residents  

Fr Kevin Laheen and Tom Ryan RHA  at one of our supported projects


Pope Francis in his address to the Consulta of the Order in November 2018 said:

"It is a good sign that your initiatives in the field of training and health care are open to all, regardless of the communities they belong to and the religion they profess. In this way you help pave the way to the knowledge of Christian values, to the promotion of interreligious dialogue, mutual respect and mutual understanding. In other words, with your meritorious commitment, you too offer your contribution to the construction of the path that will lead, we all hope, to the achievement of peace throughout the region…….. Then, with regard to your mission in the world, do not forget that you are not a philanthropic entity committed to promoting the material and social improvement of recipients. You are called to place the evangelical love of your neighbour as the final aim of your works, to witness everywhere the goodness and care with which God loves everyone. The admission into your Order of bishops, priests and deacons is absolutely not an honour. It is part of their tasks of pastoral service to assist those among you who have a role of responsibility by providing opportunities for community and liturgical prayer at every level, continuous spiritual opportunities and catechesis for ongoing formation and for the growth of all the members of the Order”.

Since the establishment of the Lieutenancy in 1986, Irish members and their supporters have donated over €5m to the Holy Land,  funding capital and current projects in schools, the seminary, humanitarian activities, and financing the education of a Maronite seminarian in Rome. 

Member in donating to the Holy Land are animated by the Purposes of the Order.

The Order, with its structure and activities, participates directly in the Roman Pontiff’s solicitude for places and Catholic institutions in the Holy Land. Its goals spring from papal teachings and are located in the general context of the ends of charity, apostleship and service to the dignity of the human being that are specific to the Catholic Church. The specific mission assigned by the Holy Father to the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem is that of animating zeal in the ecclesial community towards the Land of Jesus and sustaining the Catholic Church and the Christian presence there”.

Map of the Holy Land

The Holy Land is defined as Israel, the Palestinian Authority, the Occupied Territories, Cyprus and the Kingdom of Jordan, all governed spiritually by His Beatitude the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, currently Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa.

Most Christians in the Holy Land are Arab. Christians are more or less 350,000 out of 23 million people living in the three countries. The world-wide Order donates circa US$14m per annum. In the period since the inception of the Lieutenancy we have donated in excess of €5m to the Holy Land.

Today the Christian population has dwindled to about 50,000 Christians in the Palestinian territories (about 1.5 percent of the population) and about 153,000 (2010) Christians in Israel (approximately two percent). Estimates suggest that about 1,000 Christians a year are leaving their homeland.

According to the 2003 Israeli census approx 98% of Israel’s Christians live in urban settlements with 20% in Nazareth, 12% in Haifa, and 10% in Jerusalem. 60% of all Christians live in Northern Israel.




The Irish contribution to the Order's work in the Holy Land

Irish funding has been provided to projects in Tila ei Ali, Beit Jala, Beit Sahour, in Bethlehem to the Holy Family Children’s Home, a youth hostel, the maternity hospital, the University and a hostel for girls attending the University; Haifa, Naour School in Jordan; Nazareth; in Kerak support to the Parish and the School;  Ramah School in Galilee and Zebabdeh. In many instances members of the Lieutenancy have visited the Irish sponsored projects whilst on pilgrimage.


The Lieutenancy is a registered charity (No. CHY8617). Its  financial statements are audited annually by a non member registered auditor and are available on the website of the Charity Regulator .

Details on some Projects supported by the Lieutenancy over the last 30 odd years.

2021 supported project  Mafraq, Jordan.


Background: This City is 20kms from Syrian Border and surrounded by Iraq and Saudi Arabia and is   70km from Amman. There are 2,500 Christians in a population of 75,000. The parish has a  secondary school that contains classes until the 10th grade only; pupils of Mafraq continue their high school education in the neighbouring villages and cities.

The students are forced to be enrolled in non-Christian governmental schools where they do not study Christian education which forms a genuine dilemma. The beneficiaries of this project are the students who will not have to move to another school outside the City when they reach high school. It will also open new job opportunities for the teachers who will be teaching in the newly opened classes. We will fund the construction of  a new building inside the parish compound to include three classrooms for the 11th and 12th grades, a teachers’ room, and bathrooms. We in Ireland have committed USD $78,690 for that purpose.

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Safout  School, Jordan, 2020

Background: the town of Safout is located 20 km north west of Amman Jordan, and is economically poor. Of the total population of 15,000 inhabitants, there are 1,750 Christians, of which 160 are Catholic Christians.  The population consists mostly of employees and workers who commute daily to work in the cities of Fuheis, Salt and Amman.  The School is the smallest of all the Latin Patriarchate schools of the Patriarchal Diocese. 

PHOTO 2021 02 25 10 25 59

The problem: The school  did not comply with the minimum health and safety standards.

Our input: With the generous donation of 50,000 Jordanian dinars received from the Irish Lieutenancy in 2020  as well as private donations and local contributions rehabilitation works were implemented to the building of the School  to improve the situation of the classrooms, restrooms and the kitchen. The work included installation of suspended gypsum board, tiling, electrical and mechanical works.


Result: The serious safety and health concerns have been eliminated through the rehabilitation work. The duration of the project  was from March 2020 until January 2021. The project required ten months to be completed due to the consequences of COVID-19 pandemic and the related lockdowns in Jordan.

Beneficiaries: The direct beneficiaries of the project are the students and teachers of the School who now attend their classes in  a safe school meeting State health and safety standards;  students’ parents are reassured since their children study in a safe and healthy classroom environment. The indirect beneficiary of the project is the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, which strives to provide the best for the parishioners and all faithful, and to allow the continuity of the LPJ biblical mission in serving its communities in the Holy Land and Jordan.


Holy Family Children’s Home, Bethlehem

In considering what would be the most appropriate way to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the establishment of the Lieutenancy in 2011, providence in the person of Comdt.  Frank Hearns came up with the solution, children, the future of the Holy Land!

In 1905, an Orphanage and crèche for abandoned children was founded by the Daughters of Charity of Saint Vincent de Paul and.  The place became a home for these children and a shelter for mothers in crisis and it is called Holy Family Children’s Home. The  mission of the nuns  is to fight for the right to life of children, to guarantee a safe shelter and safe delivery for the babies and mothers.

The age of the target group in the Holy Family Children’s Home is from 0- 6 years. The children are welcomed into the Home regardless of their religion, race or background. They are a gift from the Lord. Who can reject such a gift? 

As a result of this fact women who managed to conceal their pregnancy had to abandon the child, many other women lost their lives while trying to get rid of the baby, others were not lucky enough to conceal it and they were killed with their infants by their families.

Orphannage01Many children are born with malformations and retardations because of the lack of good prenatal care and poor conditions surrounding the deliveries. As a result of the increasing social problems, the Home expanded its services to receive children who live in crises, children from broken families, divorced parents, drug addicts, etc. 

The children have a boarding section well arranged to meet the needs of lives. The home is divided into rooms according to their age group. The Crèche is an address for children who live in danger, who are victims of domestic violence and violence in general.

The children from outside the Crèche receive lunch with our children every day from Monday until Saturday. It has four teachers working with the children in the kindergarten, beside the supervisor and the trainer. It implements its program under the supervision of Bethlehem University Education Faculty. A paediatrician, a child psychologist, and a social worker add their professional expertise, guiding the development of each child.

The number of children is increasing, and cases of abandoned children are even harsher than before. The level of violence and irresponsibility is higher in the area. Those most affected are the children and women.

All of us are aware of the need. The present situation and the future are vague and unpredictable. Violence is increasing and ignorance is one of the predominant causes of the present general situation.

Chev. Frank Hearns who turned 70 years old during his 2011 tour was on the roads of Europe for a month starting from the Carmel of St. Joseph of Malahide. He cycled from Malahide, accompanied by a friend, Blaise O’Rourke to Bethlehem commencing on 5 June and concluded in Bethlehem on Monday 4 July. They covered 3,200 kms in 30 days over 6 countries. They had to change one tyre which resulted in a wheel being given free. They first crossed the Channel by boat to France, then travelled the roads of Italy and Greece before flying to Tel Aviv. They then resumed traveling on bicycles to Bethlehem. They were welcomed by Sister Sophie Boueri, then Director of the Holy Family Children’s Home, who received €110,000 from Frank in donations collected from the Irish Dames, Knights and friends.

Everywhere, we were met with exceptional hospitality and kindness in the countries we visited, and there are many stories to tell,” said Frank, “a Greek who, seeing my T-shirt in the colors of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre offered me hospitality for the night.”

The event had been carefully prepared, while leaving much to improvisation and surprises along the route. It was an experience like a real pilgrimage by the Irish Knights, marked by daily prayer and Sunday Mass as food on the long road to the Holy Land.

On his arrival in Jerusalem, Bishop William Shomali, then Auxiliary Bishop of Jerusalem warmly welcomed him expressing friendship and recognition of the local Church saying “The Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre is a great help for our community. Its members are generous with their ongoing support and evangelisation, may it continue along this path.”

The journey is often more important than the goal in itself ,” said Frank, “and with all my heart I sincerely thank those who helped me make this pilgrimage possible.”

The most recent visit to the Orphanage was in November 2019 when  the Lieutenancy made a donation to the help the running of the Orphanage. In all over €250k has been donated in recent years. 

   Orphannage02    Orphannage03  

November 2019


Five-day old baby


Other Projects supported in recent years

Jish/ Gush Halav

Jish is a Maronite Village in Northern Israel a few miles from Lebanon’s Border. It is a small town of 3,000 and has two Maronite priests. With 65 percent of its residents belonging to the Maronite Church, Jish is the only village in Israel with a majority Maronite population. Muslims constitute about 35 percent of the residents, with a smattering of Melkite Christians making up the tiny remainder.

In 2019 Ireland funded the remodelling of a youth centre and a library centre 

 LibraryThe Library


Creche in Bethany, East Jerusalem, backing onto the Separation Wall

Bethany was sealed off by the Separation Wall in 2004. The Comboni Sisters started their mission in Bethany in 1966.  St Mary’s Kindergarten now hosts 48 children, most of whom are Muslims, coming from families living under social and economic hardship. The Sisters are immediately adjacent to the Separation Wall  having to regularly endure tear gas, Molotov cocktails and stone throwing. They are striving to provide a pleasant and welcoming environment for the children to stay as a witness for love, peace and harmony.

The funds made available in 2019 by the Lieutenancy provided a fire-proof roof for part of the play area and renovated two existing classrooms.

creche01Members with the children 2019

Birzeit Parish and School Hall

Birzeit, also Bir Zeit, is a Palestinian town north of Ramallah in the central West Bank. It is 73km north of Jerusalem. Its population in the 2007 census was 4,529. 

A host of projects and programs have changed the lives of the people in the town and surrounding villages. The 2019 donation will remodel the School Hall from an auditorium to a flat floor building. This will be used both by the school  for lectures, graduation ceremonies etc; it will also be used by the Parish church communities, scouts etc.  

 Bir ZeitStudents in Bir Zeit School with members of the Lieutenancy


Since the dawn of Christianity, Christian communities have flourished in and around the provincial towns of Karak, Madaba, Salt, and Amman, while the growth of Christianity in the Middle East has nurtured a bond with the Hashemite Kingdom. The Christian population is between 5% and 6%. In Jordan, about half the Christians are Jordanian, and the other half are Iraqi.


To maintain the Christian presence in the Holy Land, the Churches consider a good education system in Christian schools to be essential. Therefore, the Churches themselves manage

  • 28 schools in Palestine
  • 31 schools in Israel and
  • 44 schools in Jordan.

The Latin Patriarchate is committed to offering quality instruction to all, girls and boys, Christian and Muslim alike. The Patriarchate has a network of 45 schools and 34 kindergartens and employs 1550 teachers and support staff; 95% are lay and 84% are Christian. They operate within the approved educational programme set by the respective governments. In addition to the standard curriculum, schools offer such programs as psychological assistance, help for special-needs students, catechism, French, biology. Additional classes are provided in music, arts, ecological awareness, peace and social responsibility, and schools offer sports in which boys and girls participate.

Unlike schools in Israel, private schools in Palestine and Jordan receive little financial support from education ministries.


Patriarch Twal inaugurated the new 450 seater Church of Stella Maris in Aqaba, Jordan, on Friday, December 14, 2012. For the first time, the Christians of Aqaba celebrated Christmas in their Church. The reason a church was built is that Aqaba is a city of the future.

Numerous Jordanians come to live in Aqaba where they find work, among them Christian families. Aqaba is a strategic city by its position: a port city, positioned on the border of Israel and not far from Egypt, it attracts Jordanians and also offers work to many migrants. Philippine and Sri Lankan Catholics, numbering about 300, join the local Christians who represent 2% of the city’s population. The new Church of Stella Maria, situated a few minutes from the sea, is also “a witness and a spiritual place of welcome” for Christians in transit, explains the Patriarch, in particular for the many tourists who come to swim, drawn by the Red Sea and the Wadi Rum.

 A large hall was built under the church (pictured) for this purpose, to accommodate Christians celebrations: marriages, first communions and others. It will also contribute to parochial life, developing prayer groups for the young, the Legion of Mary, the scout movement, etc. The lieutenancy contributed significantly to the building costs. Aquabe HallHall was made under the church Stella MarisStella Maris Church in Aqaba 

Beit Jala

Part finance a new printing plant and the transfer of machinery for the Patriarchate at just outside Jerusalem. It has printed the new Catechism, pastoral letters, the diocesan paper etc. This Project also provided much needed employment.


On the boundaries of the town of Bethlehem and Beit-Jala House stands St. Theresa’s (a university residence for girls), on the road to Hebron, the Lieutenancy assisted its conversion into a hostel for about 40 girl students of the University whose homes are a considerable distance away.


A Maronite cleric undertaking post graduate studies.   


In January 2009 following appeal from the Grand the world wide Order, Ireland sent a sizable donation to assist in humanitarian aid following the Israeli invasion of Gaza.


Purchase of land for a school. Hashimi is situated in a densely populated area in the east of Amman not far from the centre of downtown.

Humanitarian Aid:

This continues year in year out. In the humanitarian area, the four core programs of

  • social assistance;
  • medical emergencies;
  • medicines; and
  • educational support.

These  have been complimented with additional programs of assistance targeting three specific groups being Iraqi refugees in Jordan; unemployed youth in Gaza; and marginalized families in East Jerusalem. Through these funds, hundreds of families were supported, though temporarily in some cases to enable them to live a dignified life. New programs are being designed to target the chronic social cases to enroll them in empowerment programs to assist them stand on their own feet in the future. Ireland has supported fellow Christians in East Jerusalem and assisted medical provision. 

An example of how these donations was utilized is as follows:  K.A. is a 5-year-old little girl from Beit Jala. Her family consists of 4 members who live in their own house. Her father works as a teacher at the Latin Beit Jala School. Her mother works in the Good Shepherd School, where the family total income is about 7,500 NIS per month. The family has a loan from the bank and they have monthly payments. K. suffers from congenital problems in her left eye. K underwent several operations in her eye, but her situation did not improve. In order not to lose her sight she underwent a very critical and sensitive surgery at Hadasah Hospital and because they are from the West bank and have no insurance for Israeli hospital they were forced to pay the whole amount. The total cost of her operation was NIS 28,450 (€7,300) which is a big amount for a family with a minimum income. In cooperation with Christian organizations the LPJ was able to contribute to help K. with a total of 5, 000 NIS to allow the little girl to undergo the surgery and to return home in better conditions.

Institutional expenditure

Includes the administrative cost of the Patriarchate, funds to meet the cost of maintaining the Latin Seminary, to meet the expenses of the clergy and their workers, in all the Patriarch, 4 bishops, 86 priests and 118 nuns; and help for the schools, which includes kindergartens.


The erection of a secondary school. Kerak is located in the Kingdom of Jordan, 124km south of Amman. It is the largest town in South Jordan. The Parish dates to 1871. The school was built in the neighbourhood of the Christian villages of Ader, Smakieh [the only village in Jordan inhabited solely by Catholics - Latin and Melkite rites with a population of 1500], Rabbas and Hmoud. Currently 800 pupils. A sizable donation, in conjunction with Lieutenancies in France and Canada Montreal and the Grand Magisterium was made for a parish church. The parish church is dedicated to “Our Lady of the Rosary” and is the only one in Jordan to have a decorated wooden ceiling.

Madaba Schools Project

Madaba is a medium-sized city of 60,000 in Jordan, located 25km southwest of Amman and 20 minutes from Mt. Nebo. It has become known as the "City of the Mosaics" for the many Byzantine mosaics that have been uncovered throughout the city. In Madaba Balad (close to the city) there will be a mixed school for boys and girls up to grade 3 and a girls’ school from grade 4 to 12, while Madaba Ma’in will become a single sex school for boys from grade 4 to 12. The works (construction and plant) included the electro-mechanical systems, 32 classrooms, 1 library, 4 laboratories and 30 WC units. The total internal works area is over 3500 sq. mts., while external works amount to 1800 sq. mts. of walls and roof plus 1500 sq. mts. of outdoor facilities and playground.


Part payment of the tuition fees of the Christian students attending Naour School, which was founded in 1924. The school family is of both sexes and has both a Christian and Muslim student base and teaching staff. The School caters from kindergarten and Primary ie ages 4 to 11. The Lieutenancy recently funded the  capital expansion of the School. This involves an extension of around 95 sq mt to the ground floor, to host the new Computer and Science laboratories. The members of the Lieutenancy have visited the School, its students and teachers on many occasions.


A donation in excess of €100,000 to this school, which is in Northern Israel: the School was established in 1912. Has 377 students of whom 329 are Christian (2008). Rameh itself is entirely made up of Israeli Arabs and has a mostly Christian and Druze population as well as a smaller Muslim population. A further expansion is being undertaken currently.


The Patriarchal Seminary which was established in 1852 is located at Beit Jala. So far, over 280 priests have been ordained from it. The average number ordained is 2. Geographically, two thirds of the students come from Jordan and the other third come from Palestine and Israel. Ireland financed an extension to the Patriarchal Seminary. This is an important project in view of an increasing number of adult vocations. The applicants who enter the Major Seminary need to attend a one-year preparatory course (concentrating on furthering the practice of prayer, communal living and Christian virtues). During this time they need to be housed close to, yet separate from, the students in the Upper Seminary. Currently there are 32 minor seminarians and  18 major seminarians.

Tla’ Al ‘Ali

The building of a Church, hall and presbytery This is situated in a district to the north east of Amman in a mixed economic area where there is some unemployment.

 “Our faithful and the other Palestinian citizens aspire to sovereignty and independence. In the land of Christ, they are not foreigners. It is their homeland”. Unity in Diversity, first pastoral letter of Patriarch Twal May 2009.


In 2017  one of our members, Comdt Frank Hearns,  undertook a charity cycle from Malahide to Rome in the context of his 75th. birthday. Its purpose was in support of “the children of Aleppo”. They were remitted to Father Ibrahim  al Sabagh ofm who is the parish priest of the Latin community based there. 

This was used for summer camps for 350 children in 2018.  As they had not had the opportunity to play during the war, there was a substantial leap in their scholastic education. They also had cooking courses and courses in dancing. It also financed another 5 summer camps as well as camps for 600 adults and for more than 400 university students. Many of the participants had never left Aleppo due to combat at all, or for many years in the case of adults. Food packs were provided 400 families during a period of four months for which the first beneficiaries were children. 

Alepo map Alepo Street

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