Two Parish Priests from the Docese of Meath recently returned from the Holy Land, having visited Israel, Palestine and Jordan with the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem. The pilgrims, Fr Derek Darby (Ashbourne) and Fr Mark Mohan (Ballivor-Kildalkey), concluded their visit as parishes across the Diocese of Meath joined together in ‘Walk to Mass Sunday’, a gesture of solidarity with persecuted Christians in the Middle East.
Having completed their pilgrimage of holy sites throughout Israel and Palestine, their first official visit was to the Latin Patriarchate, where they were welcomed by Auxiliary Bishop Monsignor William Shomali (see photograph above).
Their time in to Palestine took them to Bethlehem University, a De La Salle Christian Brothers Catholic University, open to students of all faiths. The University’s story is one of people committed to pursuing their higher education, of perseverance and courage in the face of adversity and injustice, and working together in hope for a better future.
While in Jordan, the pilgrims went to visit the Our Lady of Peace Centre outside Naour, where the group met with Fr Imad, the Parish Priest. He introduced the group to Christian refugees from Iraq, supported in Jordan by Caritas International. The refugees spoke of their stories and their escape from the clutches of ISIS and possible death. As Fr Darby explains, these refugees can never return home – they see no future for Christians in Iraq. “ISIS is cleansing Syria and Iraq of all Christians”, they said. All that is left open to them is relocation, so they can begin to rebuild their lives. When asked if there is anything the Irish pilgrims can do to help, the refugees asked that they “lobby our government to issue visas, so they can live in a place where they, and their families are safe”.