Page 12, 9th December 1994

9th December 1994
Page 12
Page 12, 9th December 1994 — A dead ringer for you know who...

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Locations: Jerusalem, Vienna


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A dead ringer for you know who...


Pilgrimage to the Holy Land took place recently. At Nazareth, we suddenly realised, from the agitated and excited movement of a Korean pilgrimage, that somebody important was in our midst. Much whispering rushing and photographing. Had John Paul II decided to join our little group of pilgrims?

Certainly, there were some of the Papal characteristics, and that enthusiasm for long distance blessing of goats and tousled-haired boys. Could this be...? Suddenly we realised we had a Papal look-alike, in none other than Canon John Supple, a large, genial and gentle Irishman from Salisbury in the diocese of Clifton, who was celebrating his 50 years as a priest with a pilgrimage to the Holy Land.

Inevitably, he added great distinction to our group, and even more so when he found, by the banks of the Jordan, a stick with so many twirls in it that he might have doubled up as a modern day Moses, leading us to the Promised Land.

The group leader was thought to have a strong voice, but it was nothing to that of Canon Supple, which boomed out the Gospel in slow precise terms. Canon Supple's voice would have carried hundreds of yards over water. There was something prophetic in his reading. And given the setting how appropriate. Finlay Currie hadn't a patch on Canon Supple.

Our pilgrimage started, as many do, in the departure lounge of El Al at Heathrow, amid much searching of luggage and questioning; all, alas, necessary in recent years. The flight was enlivened by our ability to know the route we were taking and where we were at any particular moment all rather fascinating. There was talk of the plane receiving this information from a satellite. But it is rather pleasant, when 37,000 feet up, to know that you've jut passed Vienna on your left, and will shortly overfly Lake Balaton in Hungary.

It was quite a change from some everlasting film. Unfortunately, they didn't repeat the moving flight plan on the return journey, so some questions remained unanswered.

And so to Jerusalem reached at a late hour to a marvellous hostel-hotel, the Notre Dame.

The next morning saw a beautiful sunny day, and we were off to the Mount of Olives down a road where the tarmac has been polished by millions of feet, and which one of our party found more like a skating rink.

The old city within the walls soon called to us, and we were quickly on the Via Dolorosa. Initially,' it is a narrow road between walls, but soon it becomes a covered way of ascending steps. There are shops to left and right, narrow but deep, selling not just the good of the East, not just religious trinkets, but the wares of America. Soon you realise that the dollar dominates. The prices are often dollars, and the almighty dollar is the common ground for both Arab and Jewish merchants.

The Via Dolorosa then gets lost in the complex of the Holy Sepulchre. The Greek Chapel marks the site of Calvary, the 13th Station of the Cross. We had even wandered onto the roof of part of this complex. However, there is no "green hill far away" in this setting. Buildings that dated back to the fourth century had disappeared by the I 1 th century. The Crusaders then rebuilt in the 12th century.

It was Queen Helena, the mother of the Emperor Constantine, who was largely responsible for the first buildings, and it is perfectly understandable and obvious that building should succeed building down the centuries.

An Anglo-Saxon Protestant approach is to be seen in the Garden Tomb, known originally as Gordon's Tomb after General Charles Gordon, which is situated outside the Damascus Gate by the Jerusalem bus station. Here General Gordon thought he had found a more pleasing site. He telegraphed Queen Victoria: "I have found the site of Calvary." Queen Victoria replied thanking him, but said that she intended to follow in the tradition first established by "our cousin Helena".

The problem today is not the question of the site, but who shall share it. When you have the sites of Calvary and the Resurrection in close proximity, seemingly under one roof, then discord can arise. Remember that our faith is something grafted on us, people of very different temperaments, and it is to be expected tliat differences can arise. So the Latin Christians, Greek Orthodox, Armenians, Syrians, Copts and Ethiopians, as diverse a bunch as you could find, have often not helped in the preservation of these buildings.

It is very refreshing to hear the Gospel story read at the very site of its happening. What better moment of spiritual joy than to switch off the engine of the boat on the Sea of Galilee and read aloud the relevant parts of Gospel. It was a magical moment in its true sense.

This great sea is so much a part of Jesus' ministry, and indeed of modem times, when we went on the Golan Heights. There must be at least 11 places in the first six chapters of Mark's Gospel where reference is made to the Sea of Galilee.

At Cana of Galilee, we had the charming ceremony of the renewal of marriage vows nothing compulsory, but very joyous and emotional for


It was a trip without a hitch, and I congratulate Tangney '[burs, particularly Nick Oliver, and Galilee Tours, for enabling us to see so much in a relatively short time, in temperatures that touched 105 in the Jordan Valley. But fear notyou're mostly in an air conditioned coach. Perhaps the Catholic Herald will promote another, and the principal pilgrims will be its editor and the owner. Opportunities for confession are widely available, and time is no object.

A STAY IN A "theocratic" state like Israel triggers off a number of interesting thoughts. The contrast between the Jerusalem of the working day and the Jerusalem of the Sabbath is so great and so beneficial that some interesting proposals come to mind.

We have a traffic problem in Britain. There are too many cars, and they will increase. Jerusalem on a Sabbath day was heavenly. Why not introduce a day of no driving on the Sabbath for the Jews who live here. The Muslims need not drive on a Friday, the Christians on a Sunday, and for those who profess no religion at all Monday and Tuesday. Evangelicals on Wednes_ days and a total ban on Thursdays.

Many will rise arms at the thought that any restrictions might be put upon them; their precious car has a right to go anywhere at any time, and nothing shall interfere. It is one of the idols of our times. For some it become an extension of their personality; for some it changes them from mild and inoffensive people to roaring, blasphemous drivers. Something must be done.

Some say that all this is impossible to control. But I have suggested a practical solution to the lessening of the number of cars on our roads with a little bit of spirituality, which might give as a spurt towards heaven. What better way to be able to overtake in the celestial motorway? t

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