The Connor pilgrims in the Holy Land visited the birthplace of Jesus in Bethlehem on the fifth day of their trip, Saturday March 26.
They began their day with a visit to Mount Zion and the Church of St Peter in Gallincantu, possibly the site of the High Priest’s house) where they recalled Jesus being condemned to death and Peter’s denials in the courtyard outside. This was a peaceful and very emotional early morning visit, removed from hustle and bustle that is Jerusalem.
From there the buses passed into Palestinian territory to Bethlehem, another place full of noise, colour and bustle. But the Church of the Angels, and the Fields of the Shepherds provided a peaceful haven, and the pilgrims celebrated Holy Communion in the Fields of the Shepherds. There was some time for shopping in the local Christian co-operative, and lunch at the Annadwa Centre in the Centre of Bethlehem, before the group moved on to Manger Square.
Here they visited the Basilica and Grotto of the Nativity and St Jerome’s caves.
Returning to Jerusalem, some of the pilgrims called the beautiful Garden of the Tomb and were able to enter the tomb believed to be that in which Jesus was laid.
The previous evening there were high spirits as the pilgrims were treated to a Sultan’s Feast in the Golden Walls Hotel. Dawn Marie Allen was selected as the Sultaness and for her Sultan she chose fellow Ballymoney parishioner Colin Loughead. Hotel staff were dressed in national costume, and the music, dancing and fine food were thoroughly enjoyed.
The pilgrims are delighted to hear the news that the Rev David Humphries, who took ill shortly before he was due to join the pilgrimage as a leader, has returned home from hospital. David remains in the group's thoughts and prayers.