Holy Land & Rome May – Holy Year 2025

Join our Holy Year pilgrimage to the Holy Land & Rome led by Mgr Simon Donnelly

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Led by Mgr Simon Donnelly

May  2025

Join The Southern Cross on this beautiful Holy Year pilgrimage to the Holy Land and Rome!

 

Join our Holy Year pilgrimage to the Holy Land & Rome, presented by Fowler Tours in association with The Southern Cross, led by Mgr Simon Donnelly of Johannesburg (pictured left), who for several years worked in the Vatican, often translating for Pope Francis himself. The pilgrimage will be accompanied by Southern Cross editor Günther Simmermacher, author of The Holy Land Trek.

This expertly guided pilgrimage will take us to all the holy places of Our Lord and Our Lady in the Holy Land, including the place of His Crucifixion and the tomb of His Resurrection. In Rome we will visit the four Major Basilicas, tour the catacombs, see the pope, explore ancient Rome, and include other churches in our programme. We are staying in 4* hotels, all offering breakfast and dinner. Daily lunches in specially-selected restaurants are included in the Holy Land! Daily Masses in holy shrines!.

Monday, May 20
We depart from Johannesburg International Airport on our night-flight to start our pilgrimage.

Tuesday, May 21
In Rome, we visit the basilicas of St John Lateran, the pope’s cathedral as Bishop of Rome, and St Mary Major, one of the oldest churches in the world, having originally been built in the fifth century. There we can see the famous Marian icon at which Pope Francis prays before and after every foreign trip.

Wednesday, May 22
Today we see the pope at his weekly general papal audience (if he is not travelling that day). In St Peter’s Square is driven around in the popemobile, so we can get a good look at him. After the audience we have time for lunch, and then go along the ancient Via Appia to tour the Catacombs, the long underground cemeteries which the early Christians used as a place of hiding to escape persecution. In the Basilica of St Paul Outside the Walls we visit the tomb of St Paul and see his reputed prison chains, as well as every pope in history represented in mosaic medallions.

St Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican

Thursday, May 23
Today is our Vatican day! We are guided through St Peter’s Basilica with its many religious and artistic treasures, including the tombs of Saints John XXIII and John Paul II. After lunch we discover the Rome of the Renaissance with places like the Trevi Fountain, Navona Square, and so on, as well as the Pantheon, which was built in the second century. We also have opportunity to see the Colosseum, the Circus Maximus, and Roman Forum.

Friday, May 24
Today is our travelling day as we leave the Eternal City to go to the Holy Land. In Tel Aviv we will be met by our guide and then transfer to Nazareth is Galilee. Depending on the time, we may have opportunity to visit holy shrines today.

Saturday, May 25
We begin our Holy Land pilgrimage where the story of the Incarnation begins: in Nazareth. We visit the Basilica of the Annunciation with the grotto where the Archangel greeted Mary with the words “Hail Mary, full of grace”, and the nearby Church of St Joseph, or Carpenter’s Workshop. We see Mary’s Well, where Our Lady drew water, and other sites associated with the Holy Family. We then visit Cana, site of Our Lord’s first miracle, where couples can renew their wedding vows. We go up Mount Tabor, where a beautiful church marks the site of the Lord’s Transfiguration.

Sunday, May 26
Today go to the Sea of Galilee, around which most of Jesus’ public ministry took place. At Capernaum we can see the remains of Peter’s house, for which we archeological proof, and of a fourth-century synagogue built on top of the one in which Jesus probably preached (the foundations of which we can still see). A Tabgha a church recalls the miracle of the Loaves and Fishes, and the nearby chapel of Peter’s Primacy marks the place where Christ entrusted the Church to St Peter. We drive up Mount of Beatitudes, on the slopes of which Jesus delivered his famous sermon. At Migdal (or Magdala) we can see the remains of a 1st-century synagogue in which Jesus very likely preached. We also have lunch at Migdal, with an opportunity to eat the St Peter’s fish from the Sea of Galilee. A highlight of the pilgrimage is the boat-ride on the Sea of Galilee on a recreation of a first-century fishing vessel, a time for both fun and for prayerful reflection.

Monday, May 27
Today travel south to Bethlehem where we visit the ancient Basilica of the Nativity, which marks the place of Jesus’ birth, and the Milk Grotto, where tradition holds the Blessed Virgin breastfed the baby Jesus before the flight into Egypt. Shepherds’ Field, where the angels announced the birth of the Messiah to the shepherds, is one of the Holy Land’s loveliest sites.

 

The Sea of Galilee seen from the Mount of Beatitudes

Tuesday, May 28
After breakfast we visit Bethany, the town where Jesus often stayed with his friends Mary and Martha, and where he raised Lazarus from the dead. We then drive to visit the Qasr El-Yahud baptismal site on the River Jordan, which the Vatican recognises as the authentic site of the baptism. There we renew our baptismal vows. We pass through Jericho, with a view on the Mount of Temptation, the place where Jesus spent 40 days and 40 nights in the desert. On the Dead Sea, where we can float on the mineral-rich water at the lowest point on earth.

Wednesday, May 29
Jerusalem! We begin our pilgrimage to the Holy City on top of the Mount of Olives at the small chapel, now a mosque, which marks the spot from which Catholics believe Christ ascended into Heaven (see His reputed footprint in a stone there). As we walk down the mount we visit Paternoster Church, where the Lord’s Prayer is displayed in hundreds of languages, including several South African versions, and Dominus Flevit Church, which is on the spot where Jesus wept for Jerusalem. At the foot of the mount we arrive at the Gethsemane with its ancient olive trees, and the magnificent Church of All Nations with the rock on which Jesus is believed to have prayed before His arrest. Across the street we visit Mary’s Tomb, from which Our Lady was assumed into heaven.

In the afternoon we go to the Judean hill country, at Ein Kerem where the Church of the Visitation up on a hill commemorates the Blessed Virgin’s encounter with St Elizabeth and her reciting of the Magnificat, and the Church of St John’s Nativity, with its beautiful Spanish tiles, marks the birthplace of St John the Baptist.

We then go to Mount Zion to visit the impressive Dormition Abbey, where Our Lady fell asleep, the Cenacle (Upper Room) which commemorates the Last Supper and the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, and the Church of St Peter in Gallicantu, where Jesus was tried by the Sanhedrin, kept in a dungeon, and where Peter denounced Our Lord three times. See the steps on which we know Jesus actually walked!

Thursday, May 30
We return to Jerusalem with a tour of Mount Zion. There we visit the impressive Dormition Abbey, where Our Lady fell asleep, the Cenacle (Upper Room) which commemorates the Last Supper and first Pentecost, and the Church of St Peter in Gallicantu, where Jesus was tried by the Sanhedrin, kept in a dungeon, and where Peter denounced Our Lord three times. Next to the church we can see the steps on which we know Jesus actually walked!

We then see the Western Wall, and then enjoy some free time in Jerusalem’s Old City, with its wonderful market where one can buy anything, from spices to religious icons. In the evening we enjoy a farewell dinner in a restaurant, where all pilgrims receive a Holy Land Pilgrim Certificate.

Friday, May 31
Today we follow the Stations of the Cross, the Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem. The Way of the Cross culminates in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, our faith’s most sacred site. Here you can touch the rock where the cross stood and pray in the tomb from which Our Lord rose from the dead.
We also visit the birthplace of Our Lady, the lovely St Anne’s Church, a Crusader church on the site of the home of Saints Anne & Joachim, parents of the Blessed Virgin. At the Pools of Bethesda Our Lord cured the lame man. We then go to west, stopping at Emmaus, where the Risen Lord accompanied to the two grieving disciples, and proceed to Tel Aviv’s airport for our flight home.

Saturday, June 1
After an unforgettable journey we land in Johannesburg, physically tired but spiritually refreshed, remembering the words of the Psalmist: “They that trust in the Lord shall be as Mount Zion, which cannot be removed but abides forever” (125:1).

MASS WILL BE CELEBRATED EVERY DAY.
INCLUDES DAILY LUNCH IN SELECTED RESTAURANT IN THE HOLY LAND!

 

Est. Price: R67,570 (sharing, ex-Jhb; subject to currency, airport tax fluctuations. Calculated on 31+ passengers, at R17,02 to the Dollar, 18,00 to the Euro)

Includes: All flights ex-Johannesburg (incl. airport taxes), accommodation in 4-star hotels or better (sharing) with breakfast and dinner, daily lunches (in Holy Land only), transfers, travel insurance, travelling on air-conditioned luxury buses, English-speaking tour guides, entrance fees as per itinerary, copy of The Holy Land Trek.

Excludes: Tips (for guides, drivers, hotels, waiters etc. These are set and mandatory), hotel taxes, visas, personal expenses, travel to and from O.R. Tambo Airport/Jhb.

A deposit of R5,900 secures your place on this unforgettable pilgrimage. For account details and booking form, please download the illustrated itinerary.

Download Itinerary with booking form