JERUSALEM – On Tuesday, June 21, 2016, a delegation of 26 lay people from South Africa visited the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem. The delegation of Knights and Dames of the Holy Sepulchre were honored with the pilgrim’s shell by His Beatitude Fouad Twal, Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem.

The delegation was accompanied by His Excellency Dr. David Smith, the English and Wales Lieutenant; Mr. Michael Cowley, KCHS President of the Northern Section of England and Wales; Mgr. Clifford Stokes, Vicar General and Ecclesiastical Master of Ceremonies; Mr. Joseph Quinn, Magistral Delegate for the Southern African Delegation and Chancellor Mr. Dino Gomes.

After congratulating His Beatitude on celebrating his Golden Jubilee of Priestly Ordination, Dr. David Smith expressed his delight to bring to the Holy Land the Knights and Dames of South Africa who represent the beginning of the Order in the African continent.

In November 2015, 32 lay men and women were invested in the Order of the Holy Sepulchre for the first time in South Africa. Speaking about the Knights’ first pilgrimage to the Holy Land, Chancellor Dino Gomes said: “our pilgrimage is a sign of commitment and an enthusiasm we share with the people here”. After attending Mass in the Catholic Church in Al-Taybeh, the delegation was deeply moved by the warm love they received by the Palestinian Christians.

Concerning the suffering of Christians in the Middle East, he pointed out “we have witnessed oppression in South Africa many years ago and just coming here gives a voice to the plight of the Christians in the Middle East and the Holy Land. God gave us a platform that we should use to fulfill His plans. I think that now we can go back to South Africa with a message and raise awareness about what we experience firsthand here”.

His Beatitude then spoke about the significance of visiting the Holy Land and connecting with the roots of Christianity. “Here is your Mother Church and your roots. Your enthusiasm is very special to us as it gives us encouragement and support”. Regarding the challenges that are facing the local Church and its faithful, the Patriarch said: “amid the violence, wars and the refugee crisis in the Middle East, the world’s attention is less and less centered on the Holy Land. We are forgotten here!” He added “nevertheless, we are happy to see that we have friends in South Africa who can visit and show us their support and solidarity”.

The visit was concluded by the giving of the pilgrim’s shells, a reminder of their christening and a symbol of their affiliation to the Order of the Holy Sepulcher of Jerusalem.

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