December 10th 2011

Indian community, who lives in Israel, made a spectacular demonstration of their faith, religiosity and culture of piety in the Christmas PadaYatra 2011: a Walking Pilgrimage in the Spirit of Christmas on the 10th of December 2011. The Pada Yatra began from the Basilica of the Holy Sepulcher which houses the Calvary and the tomb of our Lord in Jerusalem, Israel and ended at the Cave of Nativity in Bethlehem, Palestine. It was Blessed and flagged off by His Beatitude Msgr. Fuoad Twal, the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem. There were more than six hundred young Indians, men and women, couples with their little children who scaled the prominent and one of the most ancient pilgrim- roads of the Christendom. It was a historical walk because it had involved two Sacred Spots on the planet: from the spot of Death and Resurrection to the spot of the Birth of our Lord (from the tomb to the womb). It involved two historical and principal-biblical cities which are very dear to the three Abrahamic faiths, the three major religions of the world. And for the past few years the holy land had not seen pilgrims who have undertaken such a long pilgrimage on foot and participated in hundreds with such devotion and joy.

The high way from Jerusalem to Bethlehem was glittering with colours of desi wears, flags of Holy Land, Vatican, India and numerous placards of various slogans like: Ave Maria, Golry to God in the highest, Peace upon you O' City of David etc.,. The melodious sounds of Konkani Carols and prayers of Naman Morie kurpen bhorlele and the joyful shouts of Merry Christmas arrested the attentions of the curious Israelis and Palestinians to come to the street and watch this Indian -Christmas spectacular. Santa Claus greeted everyone who passed on the Road. Their energetic dance and gentle greetings attracted and amused numerous Jewish and Arab kids as well. The Pilgrimage concluded with the Holy Mass in Konkani at the Franciscan Church of St. Catherina in the Basilica of Nativity in Bethlehem.

Indian Chaplaincy, led by its dynamic Chaplain fr. Jai ofm, which functions under the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, organizes this Pada Yatra every year, on the 3rd Week of Advent, for the faithful, as a fitting preparation for the celebration of the birth of our Saviour. It is in the spirit of the reliving and recalling the triple walks at the Birth of the Messiah: walk of the Holy Family, Journey of the Three Wise-Men from the East and the walk of the Simple- Shepherds.

By their active participation in the liturgical and pious activities, this community has become a visible & a witnessing community in the holy land. His Beatitude, the Patriarch of Jerusalem praised the Indian Chaplaincy for its creative spiritual and pastoral activities for its community. He said that by their simple faith and devotion let them renew the faith of the local Christians and pilgrims. Indian community in the Holy land is very grateful to the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land for caring for them and for other foreign workers, by offering friars, its Churches, Sanctuaries, and School campuses etc., at their disposal, for their spiritual and pastoral care.

Indian Chaplaincy in the Holy Land wishes you all a Merry Christmas and Assures a prayer for you all at the Grotto of Nativity on the 17th of December when it gathers for the INDIAN CHRISTMAS AT BETHLEHEM, 2011.

Photos by Jossy Pinto