While the Holy Land enjoys a constant flow of pilgrims visiting its holy sites throughout the year, it is not every day that it welcomes a single group of 700 visitors. The Catholic pilgrims from Venice – who filled three planes and 14 buses – were accompanied by Cardinal Angelo Scola, former Patriarch of Venice and now Archbishop of Milan, and Bishop Beniamino Pizziol, currently Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese of Venice.
Bishop Pizziol shared his thoughts on their pastoral visit, “Our pilgrimage had a specific goal, to share a great spiritual and communal experience with this large group, to visit the places where Jesus was born, where he grew up, and where the great mysteries of his death and resurrection were occurred.”
Bishop Pizziol underlined the rich meaning of the encounter with the land, which has true significance for the entire world, as the center and birthplace of the three great religions. “We saw that visiting this land can foster friendship, fraternity and solidarity between those participating in the pilgrimage. My advice is that everyone, at least once in their life, has this extraordinary experience of a pilgrimage to the Holy Land.”
The bishop estimates that of the 700 pilgrims, over 500 are visiting Israel for the first time, while others, including himself, are here for the fourth or fifth time. “Some have even come ten times, because there is great affection for and interest in this land, and once you make this pilgrimage to the Holy Land, you return home renewed, different from the way you were when you set out, because the pilgrimage leaves an indelible imprint on your life.”
He further noted, “There is also a sense of respect and of welcome towards everyone, including for the pilgrims praying on the streets, like on the Via Dolorosa, which is the strongest experience for us.”
Finally, Bishop Pizziol highlighted the value of Jewish-Christian friendship, “I have very close ties to the Jewish world, because there is a synagogue in Venice, and I have a good friend who was president of the Italian Jewish community. In the parish where I worked, we engaged in Jewish-Christian dialogue.”