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Syria

The journey to the Lebanese/Syrian border was uneventful for most of us, but one coach was held up on both sides of the border for about three hours. This was an opportunity to exercise patience and good humor. In spite of the occasional wave of anxiety on board, most people, with God’s help, managed to remain calm and in good spirits. The writer was one of the pilgrims on this bus. One priest from the United States later mentioned jokingly that everything seemed to go wrong around him. Both he and the bus quickly acquired notoriety and visitors to the bus, including Vassula, were warned not to stay too long!

We checked in at the magnificent Hotel Ebla Cham in Damascus. Next morning we departed for Palmyra where we visited the Roman ruins in the burning heat. We had planned to celebrate the Divine Liturgy in the impressive amphitheatre but to avoid being baked alive, we retreated to a nearby hotel, where we also ate lunch, and the Liturgy was celebrated with great devotion on the stage of a conference room. The main celebrant was Fr. Eugene Pappas. This was the Orthodox Liturgy without much of the usual ceremonial accompaniments, but still magnificent and profoundly moving.

Bishop and Orthodox priests celebrating the Liturgy On the stage of the Hotel
Bishop and Orthodox priests celebrating the Liturgy on the stage of the Hotel

The next day, Sunday, we visited the old city of Damascus. We began with the chapel, originally a house and then a prison from which St. Paul had escaped by being lowered from a window in a basket. We also visited the Great Umayyad Mosque with its beautiful Roman courtyard and the shrine of the head of St. John the Baptist. The Mosque is a place of prayer. It was interesting to see how people felt relaxed and at home within its walls. It surely reminded us of the description of how Moses and his companions ate and drank in the presence of God on Mt. Sinai (Exodus 24:9-11); the children of Allah, at home in their Father’s house, acknowledged at the door His holiness and the sacredness of the place, again like Moses, by removing their shoes.

John the Baptist's TombJohn the Baptist's Tomb
Chapel and prison of St. Paul (left, the Shrine of St. John the Baptist in the great mosque (right)

Our Sunday Liturgy, Greek Catholic, was at the Melkite Cathedral of the Dormition of Our Lady and the chief celebrant was Bishop Georges Kahhale. Once again, this was a very moving experience, an experience of unity. Surely it will long remain in the memories of the bishops and priests who gathered around the altar. Since the Cathedral is dedicated to Our Lady, we were once again reminded that we were traveling with the Mother of Christ who was like an enthusiastic mother showing her little children some of her favorite places, and some of her favorite people.

Bishops and priests with Vassula at the entrance of the Sanctuary, after the Liturgy
Bishops and priests with Vassula at the entrance of the Sanctuary, after the Liturgy

We visited the house of Ananias, now a chapel, where St. Paul’s sight was restored after being blinded by the light of the Risen Christ (c.f. Galatians 11: 11-24 and Acts 9: 1-25, 22: 4-16, 26: 9-20).

Sign outside the house of Ananias, Syria
Sign outside of the house of Ananias, Syria

Inside Church of Ananias
Inside Church of Ananias

That evening we were joined by two dinner guests, Bishop Isidore Battika, the Greek Melkite Patriarchal Vicar from Damascus, and the Syrian Catholic Bishop, Monsignor Elias Tobbi. Bishop Isidore’s speech was greeted with enthusiastic applause. He spoke about the wonderful cooperation between the Greek Orthodox and the Greek Catholic communities who chose to build a church to serve both groups. This is the church of St. Peter and Paul at Dumar. He spoke about the importance of Syria, referring to the visit of the late Pope John Paul II. Read more here

Bishop Battika with Vassula at dinner, Syria
Bishop Battika with Vassula at dinner, Syria

Bishop Tobbi with Vassula at dinner, Syria
Bishop Tobbi with Vassula at dinner, Syria

"The community of Damascus supports all the history of the Church. In Damascus we have the Greek Orthodox and the Greek Catholic, the Syrian Orthodox and the Syrian Catholic, Armenian Orthodox and Armenian Catholic, Maronite, Chaldean, Protestant, Anglican, Latin. Every Church is represented in Syria. Syria is very important. When Pope John Paul II came to Syria, we called his visit ‘Syria: Beginning of Christianity.’ It is very important...Jesus begins His life between us in Jerusalem, but Christianity like a Church, begins in Syria with Annanias and St. Paul. You know the history from Acts."

Christ is the Founder of His Church, but there is much truth in the idea that Christianity, as it came to be known throughout the world, could not have spread as it did without the conversion and ministry of St. Paul.

Vassula with Myrna of Damascus, Our Lady of Soufaneih
Vassula with Myrna of Damascus, Our Lady of Soufaneih

 
Pilgrimages & International Retreats
11th Ecumenical True Life in God Pilgrimage to Russia
Loutraki Greece 2016
10th True Life in God Ecumenical Pilgrimage in Italy
Rhodes 2012
9th True Life in God Ecumenical Pilgrimage in the Holy Land
8th Ecumenical Pilgrimage to Rome
Rhodes, Greece 2010
Evangelization Retreat in Rome 2010
Biblical Greece Pilgrimage 2009
Mexico Retreat 2009
Egypt Gathering April 2008
Brazilian Retreat 2008
Biblical Turkey Pilgrimage 2007
Barcelona Retreat 2006
Lebanon, Syria and Jordan Pilgrimage 2005
    The Official Pilgrimage Report
        The Official Pilgrimage Report - pg1
        The Official Pilgrimage Report - pg2
        The Official Pilgrimage Report - pg3
        The Official Pilgrimage Report - pg4
        The Official Pilgrimage Report - pg5
        The Official Pilgrimage Report - pg6
        The Official Pilgrimage Report - pg7
    Renunciation
    President of Lebanon Greets Vassula and TLIG Pilgrims
    Cardinal Sfeir
    Advisor to the King of Jordan Addresses Vassula and TLIG Pilgrims
    An Example of Unity in the East
    Pilgrimage Photo Gallery
    The "True Life in God" family visited Maghdouche and Our Lady of Mantara
    Bishop Anil Couto
Meteora Retreat 2004
Egypt Pilgrimage 2002
Holy Land Pilgrimage 2000
Holy Land Pilgrimage 1998

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Loutraki Greece 2016
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10th True Life in God Ecumenical Pilgrimage in Italy
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Rhodes 2012
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9th True Life in God Ecumenical Pilgrimage in the Holy Land
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8th Ecumenical Pilgrimage to Rome
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Rhodes, Greece 2010
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Brazilian Retreat 2008
True Life in God South American TLIG Retreat and Evangelization in Brazil, 31 March - 6 April 2008
 

Biblical Turkey Pilgrimage 2007

 

Barcelona Retreat 2006
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Lebanon, Syria and Jordan Pilgrimage 2005
5th International Ecumenical TLIG Pilgrimage
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Meteora Retreat 2004
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