Jerusalem, Holy Land, 9 July 2019 -- What have been the fruits of 8 days pilgrimage in the Holy Land? What makes the pilgrimage to the Land of Jesus so unique? A unique opportunity to touch the places of Jesus with an excellent guide (Fr Marco Rossetti, SDB - Turin, Crocetta professor) and with almost the complete General Council (only 3 were absent)! Three days in Nazareth (Galilee) and five days around Jerusalem (Ratisbonne Theological Centre, a campus of UPS) was a wonderful occasion to walk in the places where Word was made Flesh and lived among His people!
The pilgrimage dynamics generated many profound experiences through a variety of encounters:
The encounter with pilgrims from many religions - Jews, Muslims and a range of Christian denominations, praying, chanting, dancing, walking in procession, sailing the Galilee lake or touching the holy places (stones, tombs or icons) or lighting candles - helped to stress the multi-religious dynamics of today's world. The overlapping or blending of different faiths and believers in the Land of Jesus opens the hearts of his disciples towards the faithful of other religions.
The encounter with many Saints - starting from the Holy Family of Nazareth and following the footsteps of our Venerable Salesian Brother Simaan (Simon) Srugi, who was born and baptised in Nazareth and died in Beitgemal (Salesian community near Jerusalem). Already a simple icon of St Dominic Savio with Jesus - his Master and best friend (and not with Don Bosco), venerated in Nazareth, opens the eyes of faith in different way.
The encounter with many members of the Salesian Family - Don Bosco past pupils can be found even among the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land. Aside from the Salesians SDB there are Cancão Nova, FMA and Salesian Cooperators. The pilgrims had a chance to pray at the tomb of Fr Antonio Belloni (founder of the Salesian works the in Holy Land).
The encounter with Salesian Youth - both Muslim and Christian (80% of our students in Nazareth are Muslim and the majority of our Oratory boys in Bethlehem are also Muslims, although during the pilgrimage period it was the summer vacation for educational institutions in the Holy Land.
The encounter with all five SDB communities in the Holy Land - Nazareth, Bethlehem, Cremisan (new provincial house), Beitgemal and Ratisbonne (Jerusalem). The Middle East Province comprises 80+ SDBs who are from 22 different countries. The pilgrims had a good chance to appreciate the very challenging mission of our confreres in each of the five communities.
Among all these encounters there was ample time to pray, reflect, pause, breath deeply and experience the places where Jesus grew up in his family, walked the streets and in the fields, ate, performed his miracles, taught about the Kingdom and His Father, suffered and was humiliated and in the end crucified. All the numerous places now covered by centuries' worth of Churches or other monuments. Walking in the Holy Land makes the Gospel and Scripture pages quite alive and very realistic - from the harsh Judean desert to the very small Jordan river.
The Rector Major and his councillors were very especially grateful to the Middle East Provincial Fr. Alejandro Leon, his councilors and all SDB communities in Holy Land who welcomed the pilgrims. This very strong faith experience of the General Council will have an effect on their ministry of animation and governance.
Aside from the variety of pilgrim groups, since 2018 every August the SDB Formation Department has been organising the 'Holy Land Experience', this year in Italian-Spanish, next year (2020) in English. We wish more Salesians would be able to experience the Land of Jesus in order to grow stronger as enthusiastic disciples and missionaries.
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