Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land - 27/03/2000 info:
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Pope John Paul II returns to Rome
(after surprise visit to Calvary)

March 26, 2000

His Holiness Pope John Paul finished the celebration of the Eucharist at about 1.45 p.m. From here His Holiness left and went to the Latin Patriarchate in the Christian quarters of Jerusalem where he met the Catholic Bishops of the Diocese. But then the unthinkable happened. In an unscheduled change of programme His Holiness was taken back to the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre at around 4.00 p.m. The Friars were to perform their daily procession around the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. The security police arrived and again took over the sanctuary and its approach to allow His Holiness to return to this Most Holy site of Christendom. We contacted the Franciscan Guardian and he expressed his awe about this "out of programme extra". He affirmed that when His Holiness arrived he went to meet him and was met with a serene smile from His Holiness who immediately started climbing the over 5 metre stairway to Calvary with steps over 11 inches each. Clinging to the railing the Pope made it up on Calvary. Here he stopped and His Personal secretary, Fr. Guardian and the GreekOrthodox Monk who was on calvary stayed behind him leaving him to his personal prayers. His holiness remained almost immobile in prayer for about twenty minutes after kneeling under the main altar and kissing the site of the crucifixion. After this impenetrrable moment where in prayer His Holiness wanted to contemplate the Passion of the Lord, he turned around smiled to those present and all went down again. His Holiness made the day of the Franciscan fraternity living at the Holy Sepulchre when he stopped and posed with them for a picture!

His Holiness left the main square in front of the Holy Sepulchre cheered by the pilgrims who had gathered there and left for the Apostolic delegation leaving behind him the Old City of Jerusalem. At 18.30 His Holiness, aboard the military Helicopter was flown to Ben Gurion airport where he arrived at 18.40 and a military guard saluted the arrival of the helicopter by a fanfare. At the airport the Pope was seen off by the President and the Prime Minister of Israel. On arrival at Ben Gurion airport a military salute was played and the ministers of the Israeli Government, ambassadors, military officials and other officials from the various government offices. They all thanked His Holiness and wished him "bon voyage". Seeing him off were also the religious authorities among them the Franciscan Custos of the Holy Land. The Pope, flanked by the Prime Minister and the President of Israel walked on the red carpet inspecting the military guard. The Vatican Hymn and that of Israel closed the simple but heartfelt ceremony at Ben Gurion Airport. Some young children presented His Holiness with a gift to carry with him and remember this land. On his way to board the plane His Holiness chatted with those around him especially the Prime Minister and the President. He boarded the all white El Al Jumbo Boeing 747 on his homebound trip which is expected to land in Rome at 10.45. On the Plane he stopped at he plane's entrance and greeted all with a hand gesture. He was welcomed on the El Al plane by the captain of the plane. Bon Voyage your Holiness and thank you for this experience of faith, love, charity and hope.

Update: His Holiness arrived in Rome whee he was received by the Italian Prime Minister Mr. Massimo D'Alema.

Thus came to an end this pilgrimage of His Holiness Pope John Paul II in the paths of Salvation History. Peter came to his "homeland" in the footsteps of Jesus. We wish to thank all those who contributed to make possible this experience through the www and to all those who have encouraged us to keep up this site and those who made use of it. We have decided go keep this web site as an icon/memory of this historic and significant event (we will certainly clean it up and update itÉ).

Created / Updated Monday, March 27, 2000 at 00:24:56