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Exodus Pilgrimage on the Road to Madrid

Join pilgrims from the Archdiocese of Sydney on the Road to Madrid, as they travel through sacred sites through Egypt and the Holy Land. This page will feature daily multimedia blogs direct from the pilgrimage sites, as well as from the World Youth Day events in Madrid, with thanks to Harvest WYD Tours. Don’t miss out!

Xt3, The Hub For WYD2011, No Matter Where You Are
Cairo: 2 Days
Arrival and Cairo Exploration
Mout Sinai: 1 Day
Ascent to the Summit of Mount Sinai
Red Sea: 1 Day
Journey through the desert to reach the Red Sea
Sea of Galilee: 4 Days
Mount Tabor and Cana, Mount Carmel, Garden of Gethsemane and Church of the Agony
Jerusalem: 3 Days
Visit to the Old City of Jerusalem
Madrid: 7 Days
Celebration of World Youth Day 2011 in Madrid, Spain

VIDEO BLOG 3 - Pilgrims in the Sinai Desert

Last updated at 2011-08-11 6:37AM

The Archbishop of Sydney, Cardinal George Pell was profoundly moved when he prayed beside the Burning Bush at St Catherine’s Monastery in the heart of the Sinai Desert.

The journey to the 10th Century Monastery at the base of Mt Saint Catherine which is adjacent to Mount Sinai, the sacred mountain of Biblical tradition, marked the third day of the life-changing pilgrimage the Cardinal is leading for 96 young Australian pilgrims through ancient Biblical lands of the prophets.

On the third day of the pilgrimage, the group boarded a bus for a journey via the Gulf of Suez to Ayun Musa, or as it is better known in English “the Well of Moses.” As the pilgrims crowded around one of 12 ancient wells, the Book of Exodus (15:22-27) was read by one of the group leaders telling the ancient story of Moses and the Waters of Marah and Elim.

For the Cardinal the experience of seeing the Burning Bush firsthand was profound. “At my age and at this state of my decline, I am not moved very often. But I was moved very deeply to pray before the Burning Bush,” he later told the young pilgrims.

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VIDEO BLOG 2 - Cardinal Pell Leads Pilgrims Through Egypt

Last updated at 2011-08-10 5:07AM

For 12 pilgrims with disabilities it was a day they will always remember when helped by young fellow Australians, they participated in a tour of Egypt's pyramids and explored Old Cairo.

Led by the Archbishop of Sydney, Cardinal George Pell on an Exodus Encounter of Egypt and the Holy Land in the lead up to World Youth Day in Madrid, the group joined 84 other young Australians on a visit to Giza where they not only climbed the base of one of the pyramids but visited the ancient Abu Serga Coptic Church of Old Cairo, where the Cardinal celebrated Mass.

Dating back to the fourth and fifth century, tradition has it that the church, which is the oldest in Cairo, is built on the site of the crypt where Joseph, Mary and baby Jesus took refuge after fleeing to Egypt to escape persecution by King Herod.

With the Cardinal as their guide, the young pilgrims also visited the famous Coptic Hanging Church which was built in the seventh century, before touring the Ben Ezra Synagogue. Orginally a Christian church, the Synagogue is believed to be constructed on the site where the cradle of baby Moses was found in the bulrushes.

Then it was back to the hotel for a swim and to rest up before the following day's dawn expedition up to the top of Mt Sinai and then on to the Red Sea.

For the 12 with disabilities to be surrounded by enthusiastic fellow pilgrims, who not only offered the warm hand of friendship but either piggy-backed or helped those with physical difficulties clamber up the base of one of the pyramids, was an experience they will never forget.

With disabilities ranging from muscular dystrophy to Down syndrome, cerebral palsy, schizophrenia and similar conditions, the 12 young people are being looked after by volunteer carers, many of whom are final year nursing students with the Australian Catholic University. A doctor and trained nurse is also travelling with the group to ensure their safety.

But for the 12, the adventure is made even more special by the fact that along with all the fun, friendship and enthusiasm surrounding them, instead of being defined by what they can or cannot do, they are being treated like everyone else and judged on their personalities, faith, laughter and love.

For most of the 12, the trip to Egypt and the Holy Land and then on to Madrid is not only the first time away they have been away from Australia, but the first time they have been away from their families. And they are revelling in their independence as well as their many newfound friends.

Michael Talpin, 19, has Down Syndrome but is high functioning, full of fun and delighted to be taking part in this spiritual adventure and, as the video shows, having the time of his life whether it is playing water polo with the group or climbing the base of one of the pyramids to see a tomb of one of the ancient pharaohs.

"It is truly a life changing event for him and the others," says his father, Michael Talpin.

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Update from the Exodus Pilgrimage: Pyramids of Egypt

Last updated at 2011-08-11 5:38AM

On Friday, (Saturday AEST time) the Archbishop of Sydney, Cardinal George Pell led a group of 96 young Australians on a tour of Egypt's famed pyramids.

With Giza only a short distance from where the Australians are staying in Egypt's capital, Cairo, the group was able to spend the morning seeing the Great Pyramid of Giza, one of the tombs of Egypt's ancient pharaohs and the historic inscrutable Sphinx, whose origins remain unknown, lost in the mists of time.

The visit to the pyramids and the Sphinx marked the first day for the young Australians who will now embark on a life-changing pilgrimage to the Red Sea, Mount Sinai and then into the Holy Land to follow in the footsteps of Christ, before joining more than 4000 other pilgrims from Australia for World Youth Day in Madrid on 16 August.

Many of Australia's leading clerics, including Cardinal Pell, will join the largest contingent of Australians ever to travel overseas for a Christian event. Pope Benedict XVI will preside over World Youth Day in Madrid when the Australian pilgrims will be joined by more than two million young people from countries across the world.

In advance of World Youth Day almost two thirds of the young Australians attending the event will embark on various pilgrimages. Some of these pilgrimages will take them Italy to follow in the footsteps of St Francis, while others will journey to France and Spain to visit the shrines of some of the Church's most beloved Saints, while still others will make the unforgettable journey through Egypt and the Holy Land.
Cardinal Pell is leading one such group on what is known as the "Exodus encounter" while another group making a pilgrimage through Holy Land will be led by led by the Archdiocese of Sydney's Vicar for Evangelisation and Episcopal Renewal, Bishop Julian Porteous.
Today, the Cardinal will lead the 96 young Australians who flew into Cairo last Thursday, 4 August, across the Egyptian border into Israel and on to Masada which will culminate in a guided tour of Herod's fortress and a chance to float in the salty Dead Sea, which lies at the lowest point on earth. The afternoon will be spent on a journey to Jericho, believed to be the oldest inhabited city in the world, before journeying on to Tiberias on the shores of the Sea of Galilee.

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Video Blog 1 - Cardinal & WYD Pilgrims Arrive in Egypt

Last updated at 2011-08-05 7:30AM

A tired but exhilarated group of 96 young Australians flew into Cairo today on a journey. The group are all World Youth Day pilgrims who will take part in a once-in-life-time tour led by the Archbishop of Sydney, Cardinal George Pell and other leading Australian clerics to follow the sites of the ancient Biblical prophets before crossing into the Holy Land to retrace the footsteps of Jesus Christ.

Called the “Exodus Encounter,” the tour will prepare the young people spiritually prior to World Youth Day in Madrid where from 16 August they will meet up with 4000 other pilgrims from across Australia at an event expected to be attended by more than 2 million.

Yesterday some of the groups flying from Sydney to Egypt spent several hours sightseeing during their stopover in Dubai, before joining the group of Australian pilgrims who flew in from Rome where they had been attending a conference.

For most their first glimpse of Cairo was through the windows of the bus that ferried them in from the airport into the city. But it was enough time for most to take in waters of the Nile, the longest river in Africa as well as to see the outline of the famous pyramids of Giza against the horizon.

The airport bus also gave the pilgrims their first sight of the Cairo’s famed City of the Dead, the vast Arab necropolis that is more than 6.5 km in length and crammed with Islamic mausoleums and tombs.

While the trial of former President Hosni Mubarak and his two sons who are charged with the murders of protesters during the February uprising earlier this year began yesterday, the city is generally quiet.

The main reason for the lack of traffic in the normally congested streets and the lack of protesters in Tahrir Square where the democracy demonstrations first began is due to the start of Ramadan which began on 1 August.

Between 80% and 90% of Egypt’s population of 85 million are Muslim and for them Ramadan is an important period of prayer and fasting. As a result there is less traffic on the normally-crowded streets with demonstrators and protesters largely steering clear of Cairo’s Tahrir Square.

Australia’s pilgrims are also staying a considerable distance from the Square and the Courts where Mubarak’s trial is now underway and feel very free to move about on this first stage of their adventure.

Later this morning the group will be given a tour of the great pyramids at Giza, known since Biblical times as the seventh wonder of the world, where the pilgrims will have a chance to explore the ancient burial tomb of the Pharaohs and to the massive mysterious Sphinx.

This afternoon (Cairo time) the group will tour Old Cairo which contains remnants of the ancient cities that preceded it as capitals.

Among the highlights are a tour of the Coptic Christians’ famous Hanging Church, built in the site of an ancient Roman fort and dating back to the 7th Century. There will also be a visit to the Abu Sarga Coptic Church, the oldest church in Egypt and built in the 4th and 5th Centuries. Constructed above the crypt where the Holy Family, Joseph, Mary and baby Jesus fled to escape persecution from King Herod.

The pilgrims will also visit the Ben Ezra Synagogue once a Christian church believed to have been constructed on the site where Moses was discovered in his cradle in the bulrushes.

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Join Xt3 and Harvest WYD Tours on Pilgrimage to Madrid!

Last updated at 2011-08-10 4:37AM

Pilgrims are set to arrive in Egypt on 3 August - watch this space for video updates from their journey!

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