This year in Jerusalem

Archbishop Naumann makes pilgrimage to the holy land

by Joe Bollig

The Sea of Galilee was calm and flat, but no one in the boat tried to walk in Saint Peter’s footsteps — on the water, that is.

It was an inspirational cruise nonetheless.

The boat trip on the Sea of Galilee was just one stop Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann made during his pilgrimage to the Holy Land with 43 members of the Equestrian Order of the Knights and Ladies of the Holy Sepulcher. The sepulcher is the tomb of Jesus, located in Jerusalem.

“We recalled St. Peter walking on the water,” said the archbishop. “And [we read about] the Lord calming the sea during a storm. There were no storm on the sea while we were there, but we were told they can be pretty fierce.”

This was Archbishop Naumann’s second trip to the Holy Land; the first was 13 years ago, only a month after he was ordained an auxiliary bishop of St. Louis.

For his second Holy Land pilgrim- age, the archbishop left the United States on Oct. 14 and arrived in Tel Aviv on Oct. 15. His group started out by heading north to Galilee, and then working their way south to the Dead Sea and Jerusalem. The archbishop left Israel on Oct. 25 for Rome, where he had an audience with Pope benedict XVI, then returned to the archdiocese on Oct. 28.

Some things — like the Sea of Galilee and the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem — hadn’t changed since his first pilgrimage. Some things had, though, for better and worse.

One positive thing was the opening of a border crossing between Israel and Jordan, which made it possible for the group to visit a Catholic school in Amman, the capital of Jordan. A negative thing was the construction of a barrier across the land separating Israeli and Palestinian populations. It was a sober reminder of the violent divisions that are part of life in that place.

The archbishop, who is grand prior of the Northern Lieutenancy in the order, served as spiritual director for the pilgrims. Msgr. Henry breier, pastor of St. Raphael the Archangel Parish in St. Louis, was also in the group.

“It was beautiful, absolutely beauti- ful,” said Pat McAnany, a member of St. Joseph Parish in Shawnee. He and his wife Mel were the only couple from the archdiocese on the pilgrimage.

“We had Mass every day at a different site, whether it was at Cana where we renewed our wedding vows, or at Nazareth, or at bethlehem. Each Mass was at a holy site so important to us as Catholics, and the archbishop did an incredible job of bringing the story [of that place] to our group.”

The group was led by Father David Wathan, OFM, an American Franciscan priest from Kentucky who has been in the Holy Land for about 10 years.

“When we got to a holy site, [Father David] would give us its Old Testament and New Testament history, and provide a context for what was happening there during the ministry of Jesus,” said McAnany. “Archbishop Naumann would give us the spiritual aspect as it pertained to our Catholic faith.”

“The whole experience [of visiting the holy sites] brings to life the Scriptures in a new way as you read them in the context of the places where these events actually transpired,” said Archbishop Naumann.

It’s hard to pick out one special moment or place from all the places the pilgrims went and all that they did, but a few stand out, said the archbishop. One was during Mass in a chapel at the basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth.

“We were singing Marian hymns,” said the archbishop. “At one point, we were singing the ‘Ave Maria,’ and then the pilgrims [in a balcony] above us, who were from many countries, began echoing our song.”

One of the highlights was definitely a visit to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem. This is the place from which the order takes its name and inspiration. While in the past the knights provided protection, today they are a social welfare and development organization to aid the Christians of the Holy Land.

“One of the rights that Latin Rite Christians have is when a group [of the knights] visits as pilgrims, they are al- lowed to have a formal entry and welcome to venerate the tomb of Jesus,” said the archbishop.

The archbishop also enjoyed a rare opportunity to celebrate Mass at the tomb of Christ.

“It’s an unusual setting to celebrate Mass,” said Archbishop Naumann. “The tomb is enclosed, kind of in two cham- bers. You go in, and most people have to bow down.”

“The second chamber is the site of the tomb,” he continued. “The Liturgy of the Word is celebrated outside of the tomb, and the preparation of the gifts and the consecration is said within the tomb. You have to say the eucharistic prayer very loudly so those outside could hear. Only myself and two concelebrants could be at the altar.”

The archbishop and Msgr. breier also made a serene, early morning visit to Calvary.

It was appropriate that the pilgrims concluded their pilgrimage with a stop in Rome to see the Holy Father.

“We were following in the footsteps of Jesus, but we were also somewhat following in the footsteps of Peter,” said the archbishop. “It was a wonderful way to conclude the pilgrimage, to pray at the tomb of Peter and Paul as well, and to meet the successor of Peter.”

Christians of the Holy Land are a minority, but their status is elevated by the many Christians who come as pilgrims. For information about making a pilgrimage, contact the Franciscan Foundation of the Holy Land at:, or the Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Land at: www.

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