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Seminarians in the Holy Land

U.S. Cardinal Edwin F. O’Brien is greeted by students as he arrives at the Catholic seminary in the West Bank town of Beit Jalla 28 Nov. Cardinal O’Brien was making his first visit to the Holy Land as grand master of the Knights of the Holy Sepulcher, a chivalric order that supports church institutions and Christians in the Holy Land. (Photo: CNS/Heidi Levine)  

29 Nov 2012 – By Judith Sudilovsky

BEIT JALLA, West Bank (CNS) — After a morning of visits to Bethlehem’s Church of the Nativity and a local Catholic parish, U.S. Cardinal Edwin F. O’Brien was overcome with emotion during his meeting with seminarians at the Latin Patriarchate seminary.

“I can’t think of a more encouraging moment than this,” he told the young men who had gathered in their common room to greet him.

The cardinal, grand master of the Knights of the Holy Sepulcher, said that, having served as a seminary rector for 12 years, he was “well aware of the work and sacrifices involved in creating the goodness I see here.”

“What better place to be formed than here?” he said. “There is a lot of energy in this room, and I am grateful and enriched by your presence and young enthusiasm.”

He said the seminary was a “hopeful sign.”

Though Jesus’ formation was very different than the young seminarians, the base of “selfless, dispossessive love of people” was the same, he added.

“Dispossessive love is unique for Christians and should be unique for priests,” he said. “You are going to set the standards for our good people for selfless love. You will make saints in this area.”

The cardinal, a former archbishop of Baltimore whom Pope Benedict named to lead the chivalric order in August 2011, arrived in the Holy Land Nov. 26 for a weeklong pilgrimage.

His itinerary included Jerusalem; Bethlehem, where he inaugurated the education department of Bethlehem University, which is supported by the knights; Nazareth, Israel, and the neighboring village of Rameh, where he was to inaugurate the parish school. He was also scheduled to visit Catholic parishes and holy sites in Jordan before returning to Rome.

On Nov. 27, Cardinal O’Brien was greeted by Franciscan Father Pierbattista Pizzaballa, custos of the Holy Land, and Latin Patriarch Fouad Twal during his visit to Jerusalem’s Church of the Holy Sepulcher — his first visit as grand master.

At the Church of the Nativity Nov. 28, Franciscan Father Stephane Milovitch, rector of the adjacent St. Catherine Church, led the cardinal through the holy site, recounting its history and archaeology. In a private moment, Cardinal O'Brien kneeled at the silver star in the grotto marking the spot traditionally believed to be where Jesus was born.

Pilgrims prayed and sang “Silent Night” in Italian. The cardinal lit candles in front of the Altar of Our Lady Mary in St. Catherine Church.

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Tags: Middle East Christians Jerusalem Holy Land Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem Cardinal Edwin F. O’Brien