BY CHRISTINE HOGAN
The rain visible was falling in sheets on to the street below, driven in busy rivulets down the plate glass windows which protect our office from the elements. It was another cheerless day in Sydney, made more dismal by the fact that I had to go to a funeral that afternoon.
In the miserable weather, though, there was a bright gleam. Finally, we were ready to launch our latest offering to our CathNews Subscribers and readers... the first ever CN Pilgrimage to the Holy Land.
We will begin to advertise the pilgrimage tomorrow on both the daily CathNews e-newsletter and the website, but I thought I would give you a sneak preview into our special offer.
The pilgrimage – lead by Dr Brian Brennan, more of whom later – will set off on November 24, and head to Amman, Jordan’s capital, via Etihad through Abu Dhabi. On the morning of the first, on the ground day, of our pilgrimage, you will wake up in your hotel in Madaba (just outside Amman) and see the Promised Land spread out in front of you.
Amman is such an intriguing city – when I was there researching a book, I spent all my free time wandering in the souqs. The locals were friendly, and kind, and were always offering cups of mint tea and a chair in the shade! For the more classically minded traveller, though, Amman offers the Temple of Heracles, a Roman theatre and nymphaeum, an Ammonite-era watchtower, the Ummayad Palace citadel (Jebel al-Qal'a) and a Byzantine church which dates from the 5th-6th centuries.
The National Archaeological Museum, located on the Citadel, houses Jordanian antiquities from all over Jordan. If you are looking for a hamam, you will find one in Rainbow Street, near the First Circle of Jebel Amman. There are coffee and tea houses here, too, each with their own distinct character and some with internet access.
In the afternoon, our group will fly from Amman to Tel Aviv, and then go by bus to Jerusalem. There, we will check into our main place of residence for our 13-day sojourn in the Holy Land.
We will be staying at Notre Dame of Jerusalem, a Pontifical Mission wi hich has received pilgrims in Jerusalem, on and off, for nearly 130 years. Read more of the history of what was known initially as Notre Dame de France here.
The great advantage of this location, right in the centre of Jerusalem, and overlooking the Via Dolorosa, is that it contains a chapel, where mass is said during the day. You can make a virtual visit to this chapel via this link.
From Notre Dame de Jerusalem, our CathNews pilgrims will explore the very seat of our faith – the Holy Land. You will be able to see the full itinerary on tomorrow’s CathNews, but the highlights include the churches of the Old City, Temple Mount, Masada and the Dead Sea, Galilee and Lake Tiberias, Jewish Jerusalem and Mt Carmel via Akko (known to the Crusaders as Acre) and Caesarea.
Most intriguing will be lunch with the Living Stones - Arab Christians - and a visit to Christian groups working for peace and development on the West Bank.
The pilgrimage will be lead by Brian Brennan, as I indicated – a man I first encountered in a lecture series about the development of the Roman villa (you cannot imagine my astonishment when I later visited the villa Medicea at Poggio a Caiano outside Florence and discovered that Brian’s lecture had truly done it justice). Some years later, we were on the same familiarisation trip to Libya – that was 2003, just as it was on the verge of opening to Western tourism. We spent six days there then, camping in the Sahara with Touareg, visiting Leptis Magna (probably the greatest Roman site I have ever seen) and exploring the ancient medina of Tripoli.
There it became obvious that Brian is both brilliant, and able generously to share his knowledge and enthusiasm. He is also an ancient historian, with a great interest in, and understanding of, the Middle East who has taken tours for Sydney University’s Continuing Education Centre, and also Academy Travel and Alumni Travel, into the region. I have been on a number of subsequent trips to North Africa with him and saw the skill with which he managed even the trickiest situation. So when we came to choosing a leader for this trip, he was our first and only choice.
I hope that you are as excited about this pilgrimage when you read the program as I am. This pilgrimage, if it is a success, is designed to be the first of our pilgrimages... first to Rome, then on perhaps along the pilgrim road to Santiago de Compostela in Spain, and parts of the Via Francigena, the ancient road between Rome and Canterbury, which passes through England, France, Switzerland and Italy.
Given that our readership comes from all over Australia, as well as wider in the world, the CathNews pilgrims should provide some fascinating fellow travellers for those who join us in November. So keep an eye out tomorrow for the details – click on the top banner of the newsletter – and seriously consider joining in this wonderful, once in a lifetime, opportunity to really explore the Holy Land
Christine Hogan is the Publisher of faith-based communication for Church Resources, and moderates the discussion boards of CathNews.
Disclaimer: CathBlog is an extension of CathNews story feedback. It is intended to promote discussion and debate among the subscribers to CathNews and the readers of the website. The opinions expressed in CathBlog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the members of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference or of Church Resources.