Presiding Bishop’s pilgrimage ends with Good Friday in Jerusalem

‘We will continue to carry the cross with you’

By Mary Frances Schjonberg
Posted Mar 30, 2018
Curry carrying cross

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry carries the cross while he and other pilgrims walk the Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem on Good Friday. Photo: Ben Gray/Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land

[Episcopal News Service – Jerusalem] The cold early-morning rain that fell here on Good Friday seemed to blur the lines between Christian denominations and make clearer the united Christian witness in the Holy Land, as pilgrims huddled together in the wind to retrace Jesus’ road to Calvary along the Via Dolorosa.

Among them were Presiding Bishop Michael Curry and those traveling with him on a Holy Week pilgrimage. With the skies alternating between threatening and bright, the pilgrims walked gingerly along the rain-slicked limestone pavement that has been worn smooth by centuries of Christian devotion. Cassock hems sometimes dipped into the many puddles along the way, making for a cold and wet experience as the rainwater soaked in.

Walking Good Friday

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry walks the Via Dolorosa with Anglican Archbishop in Jerusalem Suheil Dawani through the Old City in Jerusalem. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

Every year, the Good Friday ritual is re-enacted in the midst of everyday life in the Old City in Jerusalem. Shopkeepers were slowly opening their sweet shops, bakeries and souvenir stores. Religious icons and jewelry and vestments were for sale next to butcher shops and hair salons. Feral cats scrounged for food. Trash collectors carefully drove their motorized carts down the narrow pilgrim-lined streets. A police officer joined the procession as a guide.

Members of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land join each year to walk the way of the cross.

At each stop, a pilgrim read from the Bible and others led prayers for themselves and others. The pilgrims sang hymns as they walked between each station. Curry and the Most Rev. Suheil Dawani, the Anglican archbishop in Jerusalem, were among those carrying the cross during the walk.

Among the many prayers for others were:

  • For those who have power of life and death over others;
  • For every occasion when human beings use their skill to hurt and kill;
  • For those who live under military rule or occupation;
  • For those facing failure;
  • For those living on this side of the narrow curtain of death, and those who have died and are living beyond it;
  • For those who mourn loved ones killed or wounded in violence not of their own making;
  • For every time the powerful are given undue respect while the weak and the powerless, the poor and the dispossessed, are ignored and repressed;
  • For those who experience moral weakness and failure; and
  • For those who know what it is to lose their faith.

Among the prayers the pilgrims prayed for themselves were:

  • When we judge others, and for those we condemn;
  • When we mock, insult or hurt others;
  • When we face sickness, physical weakness, tiredness and exhaustion;
  • When we know moral failure;
  • When everything and everyone seems to be against us and hope flees;
  • When we are ashamed or abused; and
  • Whenever we are called to account for our faith.

The Anglican and Lutheran pilgrims, along with representatives of other Christian faiths, then ate a simple breakfast at the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer near the end of the Via Dolorosa.

Newly installed Lutheran Bishop Ibrahim Azar had joined the walk and then welcomed the pilgrims to the church. “It is a delight to be together as the family of Christ,” he said. “We hope and we pray that our Lutheran and Anglican relationship will deepen through our love, our worship and our actions.”

Azar later preached in Arabic during the traditional Good Friday liturgy at the Anglican Cathedral Church of St. George the Martyr. The cathedral has many Arabic-speaking members and parts of the service were also conducted in Arabic.

Curry receives pectoral icon

His Beatitude Theophilos III, patriarch of the Holy City of Jerusalem and All Palestine, presents a pectoral icon to Presiding Bishop Michael Curry during a visit to his offices in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre on Good Friday morning. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

Also on Good Friday, His Beatitude Theophilos III, patriarch of the Holy City of Jerusalem and All Palestine, welcomed Dawani, whom he called “our brother,” Curry and the group traveling with him to his offices in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

“Your visit is encouraging us to maintain the Christian character of Jerusalem,” Theophilos told Curry, describing the city as “multinational, multicultural and multireligious.”

Pectoral icon

The pectoral icon Presiding Bishop Michael Curry received from His Beatitude Theophilos III, patriarch of the Holy City of Jerusalem and All Palestine. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

The patriarch said he believes that those Christians who minister in Jerusalem “do not represent ourselves – we represent the whole world, and especially our Christian brothers and sisters. When you come here, you come home.”

Theophilos spoke of the difficulty in that representation. “Everybody loves Jerusalem, and everybody wants Jerusalem for his own,” he said. “It is very difficult to draw the lines here, so we have to be acrobats.”

However, he said, “Jerusalem has enough room to accommodate everybody.”

The patriarch said with a smile that he has a tradition of offering “spirituality” to his visitors. An assistant then offered small glasses of brandy to the guests.

Curry assured Theophilos that Episcopalians would continue to pray for him, for Dawani and the ministry of the diocese, and “always for the peace of Jerusalem.”

“You are not alone. We are the body of Christ, and we will always do that,” Curry said. “We will continue to carry the cross with you.”

Darkened procession

Parts of the Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem’s Old City were in shadows early on Good Friday morning. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

Veronica's house

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry and Anglican Archbishop in Jerusalem Suheil Dawani sing in the sixth station, known as Veronica’s house. She is said to have seen Jesus coming up the hill past her house and gone outside to wipe the sweat from his face. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

Stations 9 and 10

The pilgrims stop for stations nine and 10 along the Via Dolorosa. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

Church of the Redeemer

From left, Presiding Bishop Michael Curry; Lutheran Bishop Ibrahim Azar; the Rev. Charles Robertson, canon to the presiding bishop for ministry beyond the Episcopal Church; the Rev. David Longe, Archbishop Suheil Dawani’s chaplain; Dawani; the Rev. Wadi Far, a transitional deacon in the Diocese of Jerusalem; and others listen as the Rev. Mary June Nestler of the Diocese of Utah reads at the final station outside the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer. The Rev. Susan Ackley Lukens, associate dean of St. George’s College in Jerusalem, holds the microphone. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

Religious souvenir

The sun begins to break through the clouds, illuminating a religious souvenir opposite the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer and near the entrance to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

The Rev. Canon Hosam Naoum, dean of the Anglican Cathedral Church of St. George the Martyr, carries the cross into the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer near the end of the Via Dolorosa. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

Dawani invited Curry to make this Holy Week pilgrimage. Complete ENS coverage can be found here.

The presiding bishop was accompanied by the Rev. Charles Robertson, canon to the presiding bishop for ministry beyond the Episcopal Church; the Rev. Margaret Rose, Episcopal Church deputy for ecumenical and interfaith relations; the Rev. Robert Edmunds, Episcopal Church Middle East partnership officer; and Sharon Jones, Curry’s executive coordinator.

– The Rev. Mary Frances Schjonberg is interim managing editor of the Episcopal News Service.


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Comments (5)

  1. David Benedict says:

    Thanks be to God that the shared communion of Episcopalians and Lutherans walked together in the way of the Cross to let the world know we are ever seeking hand-in-hand to be the living presence of our Lord and Christ in these terribly violent and broken times.

  2. Vicki Gray says:

    Michael, as you walked the Via Dolorosa and prayed for “the weak and the powerless, the poor and the dispossessed”, in Gaza “those who have power of life and death over others….use[d] their skill to hurt and kill” peaceful Palestinian protestors who dared to approach the walls of their prison. You were there. You experienced the unlivable conditions. I expect you understand the despair of the young protestor who told a reporter “I want to be shot. I don’t want this life.”

    With all respect and love, I beg you, in the name of the God we crucified, say something.

  3. Michael Hartney says:

    The Orthodox Patriarch presented the Presiding Bishop with a Pectoral Encolpion, not a Pectoral Cross.

  4. Michael Hartney says:

    Well, Pectoral icon is better than Pectoral Cross. Thanks for changing it. But it is still an Encolpion!

  5. Paula Wicker Hamby says:

    Thank you so much, Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, for making the connections with these clergy in Jerusalem on Holy Week. I feel so much more a part of Christianity there because of the wonderful photos which showed us real life and the House of Veronica. Never knew her story although I have prayed the Way of the Cross and remembered the “lady with the cloth to wipe Jesus’ face.” May the Lord continue to bless the efforts of all involved and bring healing to Jerusalem.

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