Christian leaders have called for prayers throughout Advent for Christians in the Holy Land as they prepare for a pilgrimage to the birth place of Jesus Christ. The four heads of Churches will undertake the pilgrimage in solidarity with Christians living in the Holy Land in the week leading up to Christmas. The pilgrimage is in response to invitations from Christian Churches in the Holy Land.
The call for prayer in the Advent season is for the pilgrims, but especially the Christians ("the living stones") who have practised Christianity in that land throughout the last two millennia. The heads of Churches are the Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor; the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Revd Dr Rowan Williams; Primate of the Armenian Church of Great Britain Bishop Nathan Hovhannisian; Free Churches Moderator, the Reverend David Coffey.
The pilgrims will arrive in the Holy Land on 20 December and travel to Jerusalem to meet local Church Leaders. The following day they will travel to Bethlehem where they will visit the Grotto of the Nativity and an ecumenical service will take place.
The focus of the pilgrimage will be pastoral visits and meetings with local Christians in both Bethlehem and Jerusalem. The pilgrimage will be based on prayer and reflection on the scriptures and opportunities for shared worship with members of the local Christian communities.
After two days in Bethlehem the pilgrimage will return to Jerusalem and return to the UK on 23 December.
The four church leaders, presidents of Churches Together in England and Wales, are:
The Archbishop of Westminster His Eminence Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor. The Cardinal has been Archbishop of Westminster since March 2000.
The Archbishop of Canterbury is the Most Revd Dr Rowan Williams. Rowan Douglas Williams became the 104th Archbishop of Canterbury in December 2002. As
Archbishop of Canterbury he is the leader of the world-wide Anglican Communion. The Free Churches Moderator is the Reverend David Coffey, a Baptist minister. He became Free Churches Moderator in March 2003.
Bishop Nathan Hovhannisian is Primate of the Armenian Church of Great Britain, following his election in 2000.