With his Apostolic Letter of October 11, 2011, "Porta Fidei," Pope Benedict XVI declared that a “Year of Faith” would begin October 11, 2012 and conclude on November 24, 2013. The Pope was referring to the Book of Acts, “…they called the church together and reported what God had done with them and how he had opened the door of faith…” (Acts 14:27). The current Year of Faith is an opportunity for all Catholics to rediscover a journey of faith.
What place could be better for retracing the examples of faith that have marked two thousand years of Christianity than its birthplace, the Holy Land?
Christian pilgrims to the Holy Land have the unique opportunity to actually see the site where Mary, by faith, accepted the Angel’s word and believed the message that she was to become the Mother of Christ. Every year, hundreds of thousands of Christians come on pilgrimage to bear witness and see the place of the Annunciation in Nazareth.
There is nothing like experiencing Holy Week in Jerusalem. Walking in the footsteps of Mary and her witness, thousands of pilgrims and local Christians fill the streets of the Holy City as they prepare to celebrate Holy Week and its culmination on Easter Sunday, the most important time of the Christian liturgical year. For pilgrims to celebrate the greatest event of salvation history and the life of Jesus at the very sites where they occurred is a moving and unforgettable experience of faith. During this week, pilgrims and local Christians alike take part in the meditative Holy Hour in the Garden of Gethsemane. On Good Friday, the Passion of Christ and crucifixion are remembered at Calvary, followed by the Stations of the Cross on the Via Dolorosa. In the evening, the funeral of Jesus is celebrated in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, an event unique to the Church of Jerusalem, reenacting the Deposition and Entombment. The climax of the week, the great Easter Vigil, is anticipated in the Basilica of Resurrection and followed by the recitation of vespers and celebration of Holy Mass with a procession around Jesus tomb on Easter Sunday.
By faith, the twelve Apostles left everything to follow Jesus and went out to bring the Gospel to all creation. By following in their footsteps and visiting to the actual sites, such as the Church of the Apostles in Capernaum or the Church of Multiplication of Loaves and Fishes in Tabgha at the Sea of Galilee, pilgrims are transformed and encouraged in their faith.
Pilgrims can take The Gospel Trail for a short walk from Tabgha to Capernaum along the paved promenade overlooking the shore of the Sea of Galilee. If Pilgrims have more time, they can hike further down the Gospel Trail to actually follow in the footsteps of Jesus and his disciples, going from Nazareth to the Sea of Galilee.
At the Sea of Galilee, other attractions such as the Jesus Boat or the Church of Beatitudes with a breathtaking view over the whole Sea of Galilee await pilgrims. The site invites Christians to prayer and contemplation as the Mount of Beatitudes is the hill upon which Jesus was said to have preached the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5).
In the Apostolic Letter, the Pope summons Christians to “an authentic and renewed conversion to the Lord” (Porta Fidei 6). The Year of Faith is an opportunity for Catholics to contemplate their conversion and the moment they entered through the “door of faith” at baptism. A special site in Israel to open that “door of faith” is Qasr-el Yahud, in the Jordan River Valley, believed to be the site of the baptism of Jesus. Tradition also marks the place as where Joshua crossed the Jordan River after the death of Moses as well as the place where John practiced baptism.
It is this pilgrimage to the roots of the Catholic faith that will make this Year of Faith unique and truly meaningful. It will leave Christian pilgrims with a renewed joy and enthusiasm for their journey of faith.
Basilica of Annunciation, Nazareth