On Saturday, May 28, 2005, The Ecumenical Inter-Faith True Life in God Pilgrimage concluded. Vassula and I departed for the Holy Land from Jordan. Accompanying us was Canon Samir J. Habiby and Mezied, a TLIG reader from Nazareth, who drove us from Jordan across the border into the Holy Land (Beth Shean Bridge). It was a blessing that we had a special card from the advisor to the King of Jordan, Mr. Akel Biltaji, that helped us cross the Jordanian border as special guests of His Majesty King Abdullah II.
Upon arrival in Nazareth, we stayed at St. Margaret’s guest house of the Anglican Church. We had been invited to attend the inauguration of the library of the St. George’s school which would be followed by their graduation celebration. Mr. Akel Biltaji was to be a special guest speaker. He greeted Vassula in the gardens of St. Margaret’s. He was so happy to see her again as he had just met with her in Jordan. The Right Reverend Riah Abu El-Assal, the Anglican Bishop of the Episcopal Church in Jerusalem and The Middle East, also welcomed Vassula and invited us to the graduation where special seats had been reserved for us.
We then had a late lunch at the Rosary Sisters’ place. They had prepared a special meal for us and some of the True Life in God Pilgrims that were staying there after the pilgrimage. We later went back to have dinner in the garden of St. Margaret’s with Rt. Rev. Riah Abu El-Assal. Canon Samir Habiby, who was Abu El-Assal’s cousin, had set up this meeting. The bishop was truly happy to meet with Vassula and showed us wonderful oriental hospitality; very kind and gracious, he treated Vassula with much respect and honor.
Father Hatem Shehadeh, an Anglican priest in Haifa, joined us for dinner. To our surprise he had been reading the True life in God Messages for years. Although he was in Nazareth for the graduation, he hadn’t known Vassula was going to be there, so he was delighted to meet with her and invited her to come back the following year and speak in his Church, St. John and St. Luke’s in Haifa. Father Shehadeh offered to be her translator and help in her ministry. During dinner, Rt. Rev. Riah raised many questions of interest. He indicated he wished to meet with Vassula for breakfast the next morning.
The next day, Sunday May 29, 2005, during breakfast with Rt. Rev. Riah, Vassula gave him the CDF book in Arabic and in English. He asked her to sign the CDF book for Patriarch Sabbah and assured her he would give it to Patriarch Sabbah who is the Latin Patriarch in Jerusalem. Rt. Rev. Riah’s grand uncle is Simon Strougi, who is one step below sainthood according to the Vatican. Rt. Rev. Riah expressed to Vassula that he sees materialism as having a great influence among Christians. Jesus does mention in the messages that materialism and rationalism lead to atheism. September 19, 1991
After breakfast, we went to meet with Archbishop Georges Haddad, who is of the Greek Melkite Catholic of Acre, Haifa, Nazareth, and all Galilee in Israel. We went to his Church of St. Peter and Paul. After the service there was a small reception in the hall where coffee and sweets were served. The Archbishop introduced Vassula to his community and asked her to speak about True Life in God and her experience. An Arabic translator assisted.
She told them that she has been called by our Lord twenty years ago and He gave her a mission for Unity for the benefit of the Church. She didn’t ask for this mission but the Lord has asked her to serve him. He asked her, “To serve him among the people who scourge me, spit on me, who have abandoned, me, and re-crucify me”. These messages are for reconciliation, conversion, repentance and unity. She told them how Our Lady has also given messages. They both are calling for a true Unity of the Church. Vassula said that the Lord says that the dialogues are good but He wants action. “Show your love and your faith by acting around one altar and that is Unity for the Lord”.
One last thing, when the Lord is speaking about repentance and reconciliation it is not only for the Church. It is with our families as well. Also, forgiveness, “to forgive.” She said when she thinks about the Messages and the Scriptures all of what God is saying you can define it in one sentence. “Love one another as I love you and serve Me.” What does serve Me mean? God is living in each one of us. We are to serve one another and help one another. That is to serve the Lord. (During this time, the Archbishop was constantly bowing his head as she was speaking. He was agreeing with everything she was saying.) She told them that we will all be judged according to the measure of love we had here on Earth.
He then invited Vassula to join him and his community for a special luncheon.
After we left Nazareth, we were on our way to Jerusalem. We checked in at the Notre Dame Monastery and Guest House across from the Jaffa Gate in Jerusalem. We had been invited by Rt. Rev. Riah to another graduation, this time at the St. George School in Jerusalem. He had special seats reserved for us in the front rows. It was a beautiful day and the Arabic music that was playing was quite moving.
When Rt. Rev. Riah began addressing the distinguished guests who were there, he also addressed and welcomed Vassula as “Sister Vassula.” There were many representatives from the different Christian denominations as well as Moslems since both Christian and Moslem students attend the school.
We then ended our day with our meeting with Rabbi Alon Goshen-Gottsein, the Director of The Elijah Interfaith Institute. He spent a couple of hours speaking with Vassula at the Notre Dame Hotel. They spoke about Vassula’s guardian angel Daniel, I AM, the intimacy of God the Father, Satan, Unity, Prophecies, Patriarch Bartholomew. He was very interested in listening to Vassula. He asked her about others who are authentic. I was observing and it was as if they were already familiar with one another. He appeared to be very comfortable and it was amusing how they were at times even humorous with one another.
Monday, May 30, 2005, was a marathon day of meetings. Vassula was invited to have lunch in Bethlehem (which means House of Bread) at the Sisters of Emmanuel. We crossed the border on foot from Jerusalem into Bethlehem because at the check point our car was not allowed to go through. We showed our passports and the guards let us walk through. It was a strange feeling walking across the border by the wall that has been built. We felt such a strong sense of division. No one can imagine the height of the wall until one is standing there in person.
Father Spyridon, who is a priest of the Greek Orthodox Church at the Church of the Nativity, was there also and he greeted Vassula and invited all of us to his house for lunch. His gracious Presbytera (wife) served us a wonderful meal that she had cooked for us. Father Spyridon gave Vassula a gift of a beautiful icon. We then went to visit the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem.
We then went to the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. Vassula met with Father G. Sellassie and Abba Fissihatsion. Vassula spoke to them about Unity. They told Vassula that she is most welcome in their Church and blessed the work that she is doing. She invited them on the next True Life in God Ecumenical Pilgrimage, 2007, because we had not had the Ethiopian Church represented on any of the four preceding pilgrimages.
Vassula had a visit with The Greek Orthodox priest, Father Atallah. He and Vassula knew each other previously. He is the spokesman for the Greek Orthodox Church in Jerusalem and the Holy Land. In the evening we shared a meal with him at his residence in Jerusalem. He told her that she has the blessings of the Greek Orthodox Church here in the Holy City. Vassula mentioned to him that she had also received blessings from Father Vassilis in Jerusalem. He suggested that we go to the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate and visit Patriarch Irineos.
Father Atallah mentioned that he had recommended to the Synod that they should select an Abbot from a monastery to become Patriarch. He added that he would e-mail Patriarch Bartholomew and let him know that Vassula had visited with him.
We called the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate to visit with Patriarch Irineos. However, they said he was not receiving guests at the time.
Tuesday, May 31, 2005 became another marathon day of meetings. Vassula had a meeting at The Romanian Patriarchate where she spoke with Archimandrite Ieronium Cretu, the Patriarchal Representative. He has an ecumenical center. He expressed to Vassula how wonderful it is to bring people together. She explained to him that the True Life in God Messages revive the soul and are for renewal. She spoke to him about unity and emphasized that division is a sin. She also spoke to him about the Apostasy and told him about the prophecy of Romania in the messages. Dec 24, 1989
Vassula and Father Ieronium also exchanged some words in Greek as he speaks Greek. He welcomed Vassula and the TLIG ecumenical group to come to his Cathedral to commune in two years, and because he was so pleased with our ecumenical group, he invited Vassula and our group to come not only to his Cathedral, but also to the new Cathedral in Jericho to commune when it is finished. Vassula mentioned to him that Bishop Theophylactos had welcomed us in the St. George Cathedral in Cairo, Egypt. Upon hearing this, Father Ieronium exclaimed that he said he knows Bishop Theophylactos very well.
In an ensuing conversation, Vassula and Father Ieronium also touched on subjects concerning Freemasonry. Finally, Vassula talked to him about the Beth Myriams and especially the one in the Ukraine.
This same day one of our TLIG pilgrims, Zigmas, met Father Pavich at Notre Dame. At breakfast he spoke with him and explained to him the clarifications on True Life in God and gave him the CDF booklet.
We then were off to St. Mark’s Convent and the Syrian Orthodox Church. Vassula met with Father Shemun Can. They had met before as well. He invited us to stay for lunch during which time he said the prayer, “The Our Father” in Aramaic. He spent time explaining to Vassula some of the history of the Syrian Orthodox Church. He also blessed Vassula’s mission for church unity because of his involvement with the ecumenical group in Jerusalem. This group has an icon that is believed to have been painted by St. Luke, the Evangelist. Father Can is looking forward to participating in the 2007 TLIG Ecumenical Pilgrimage.
We then went to The Armenian Patriarchate in Jerusalem. It is wonderful that they are all so close by. Truly they are neighbors! We were just going from appointments to appointments which we called the “Spiritual Marathon.” Bishop Aris Shirvanian and Vassula were sharing on the dialogue of unity and she asked him how he feels about the unification of the dates of Easter. Vassula invited him to the next pilgrimage as well and he said he would be looking forward to it.
Vassula’s next meeting was at The Maronite Patriarchate in Jerusalem where Vassula met with Archbishop Paul Sayah. He was interested to know about her ecumenical meetings so she told him that she had, in 2001, been invited by the International Bridgettine Centre of Farfa in Italy to speak on Ecumenism and Spirituality and that she would mail him her Farfa speech. He then took us to the roof top where there is a beautiful view of Jerusalem from which can be seen the Dome of the Rock on one side and the Mount of Olives on the other.
We went back to the hotel at Notre Dame to check out, and providentially, while we were putting our luggage into the car, we saw Bishop Timotheos of The Greek Orthodox Patriarchate there in the courtyard. Well, this was the Finale! The Lord surprised us with this one. We had tried earlier to go to the Patriarchate but at that time, they were not receiving guests. It was such a pleasant surprise that the Lord brought Bishop Timotheos to us! He was there in the courtyard having a meeting. He recognized Vassula whom he had met before on a previous visit, and came over to greet her. He expressed his pleasure at seeing her again and asked her for her latest book. I ran to the car to give him the CDF in English, and also two small booklets, the Bridegroom (He had said, “Is this Nimphios?” which means bridegroom in Greek) and the Odes. He assured us that he would read them.
Bishop Timotheos then asked Vassula what she would be able to do for the Church in Greece. They were talking like good friends. He said to her, “I welcomed you into my office. Remember?” I was at an advantage because I knew what they were saying in Greek. Unfortunately, I did not take a photo. Believe me! I was later so upset not to have taken his photo with Vassula, but at the time I was so excited about this Divine Providential meeting of the two, that I just froze. Here at least is a photo of him below from the Jerusalem Patriarchal website.
We then drove to Yehud, which is close to Ben Gurion Airport. Vassula had an interview with a correspondent for the Die Welt. This took place on the grounds of the Hotel Avia in Yehud where we stayed for the evening. We departed the next morning, Wednesday, June 1, 2005.
The True life in God people of the Holy Land did a wonderful job setting up all these meetings and our accommodations. They showed us great hospitality and may God bless their work. It was wonderful spending time with them in the Holy Land right there where they live. I thank God for such a memorable and exciting time with Vassula and meeting His Shepherds who are so unique, diverse, and yet all belong to Him!In Christ,
TLlG reader, New York City, USA