The Editor of The Irish Catholic newspaper Michael Kelly is currently leading a group of pilgrims in the Holy Land. Having led dozens of pilgrimages to the Holy Land with the team at The Irish Catholic newspaper, this year he took a special group of Irish pilgrims along with him to show them the most important sites of Jesus and the beauty of the Holy Land. The pilgrims walked in the footsteps of Christ and visited the holy places associated with his earthly life. Praying for family and friends on the journey, Mr Kelly and co., travelled with well-known theologian and speaker Fr Eamonn Conway earlier this month from October 1 to Oct 9.
It was a short drive to the Shepherds Fields and on to Jericho, Qasr el Yahud, the Baptismal site of Jesus Christ on the Rive Jordan where the group renewed their Baptismal Vows. Before finally continuing on to the Dead Sea where they had the opportunity to enjoy a “dip” near Qumran, where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found.
Mount Tabor, rising dome-like from the Plain of Jezreel, is the mountain where Christian tradition places the Transfiguration of Jesus. In the Old Testament, Mount Tabor is described as a sacred mountain and a place for worship. It is not mentioned by name in the New Testament.
After the Crusaders were defeated in the 12th century and the area was taken over by the Turks, the Mamluk sultan Baybars destroyed all the religious buildings on Mount Tabor in 1263. Tabor remained deserted for nearly 400 years until the Franciscans negotiated permission to settle there.
Early pilgrims used to climb 4300 steps cut into the rocky slope to reach the summit. These days taxis negotiate a succession of hairpin bends before they suddenly reach the summit.
The present Catholic and Greek Orthodox buildings (separated by a wall) were constructed in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Its entrance is flanked by chapels dedicated to Moses and Elijah, who were seen with Jesus during his Transfiguration. The event itself is depicted above the main altar in the central apse. In the crypt under the church are the altar and fragments of walls of a Byzantine church. There is a tradition that the rock floor of the crypt is where Jesus stood during the Transfiguration.On the 3rd of October the group travelled to Haifa and Acre the Crusader City, a must-see and key part of the Crusader story. Haifa is the third largest city in Israel today after Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. It is the principal port city of the country. At Haifa the group celebrated Mass in the Stella Maris Church in the Carmelite Monastery located on the slopes of Mount Carmel.The group then had an optional rosary at the Basilica of the Annunciation.
On the final day, the group walked around Mount Zion, and visited the Church of the Dormition of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Tomb of David and finished their pilgrimage at the Room of the Last Supper.
Michael Kelly’s book An Irish Pilgrimage Guide to the Holy Land is available to purchase at Columba Books.