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ENGLAND: Church leaders to make pilgrimage to Bethlehem

[Anglican Communion News Service]  Christian leaders in England, as they prepare for a pilgrimage to the birth place of Jesus Christ, have called for prayers throughout Advent for Christians in the Holy Land.

The four heads of Churches -- Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor; the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev. Dr. Rowan Williams; Primate of the Armenian Church of Great Britain, Bishop Nathan Hovhannisian; and the Free Churches Moderator, the Rev. David Coffey -- 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 practiced Christianity in that land throughout the last two millennia. The pilgrims will arrive in the Holy Land on December 20 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 where an ecumenical service will be held.

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 December 23.