“This first trip was a dream come true. I find it hard to put into words the feelings I experienced in this land where Christ was born, lived, and died. There are so much to learn and to remember during those few days of pilgrimage,” said Br. Carlos in an interview during a break from meetings in the last week of November in Rosemont, Montréal.
Br. Carlos, a Franciscan friar from Christ the King province in Western Canada, felt privileged to be able to make this pilgrimage for few days after attending a meeting for mission and evangelization held in Malta. He was able to visit some prominent holy places such as Bethlehem, Qumran, River Jordan, Dead Sea, Jericho, Jerusalem, Capernhaum, Jaffa, Mt. Tabor, Cana, and Nazareth. He even have a special access to the Holy Sepulchre.
At Capernaum, he was so thrilled to find out that he would be able to join with other pilgrims from Australia to ride on boat at the Sea of Galilee. “We celebrated Mass on a boat, with an Australian priest. It was rather extraordinary!” said Br. Carlos.
Carlos Ona, OFM, continued his testimony with some emotions: “We spent part of our time at the Franciscan monastery, a stone’s throw from the Holy Sepulchre, the St. Savior Monastery. The Franciscans have a Custody there, a permanent presence in the Holy Land. At the Holy Sepulchre, I witnessed something the opposite of what I expected. It’s a bit chaotic and noisy around there. When we arrived, there was a huge line up, but because the caretaker of the Tomb knows well the friars, my guide asked the person on duty if I could see the tomb. And so I waited for my turn. I was able to have a brief moment of contemplation alone before other pilgrims arrived. It was a very special moment.”
This trip to the Holy Land led to reflections of all kinds for the Franciscan. “It always amazes me how rich the Christian faith is and our history. Within Jerusalem wall, there are richness of expressions of faith for the three religions there, Christians, Jewish, and Islamic faith. Of course, there are so much to give credit and gratitude to people who preserve those holy sites and not to neglect the contribution of science and technology to verify the authenticity of the artifacts as ancient as the tomb of Christ, with their many techniques,” Friar Carlos commented.
In a historic event this fall, specialists restored, for the first time in centuries, the original stone of the tomb where, according to Christian tradition, Christ’s body was placed. An article in National Geographic offers a fuller explanation.
Qumran, Dead Sea, River Jordan
Jericho, Jerusalem, Capernaum, Cana and Nazareth