The 20-member group led by Fr Martín Prado departed on Monday, 15th July, and will return on Thursday 15th August.
Fr Martin explained that their dream of visiting these pilgrim places became a reality about a year ago, when they received an invitation to participate in the IVE meeting in Rome.
“It is an international gathering of members of the Incarnate Word where we try to form ways in evangelizing culture,” Fr Martín stated.
“A year of preparations and fundraisings then followed. We would visit the Holy Land, the land of Jesus, of Our Lady and the Apostles, and then visit Rome, the city that St. Peter, the first Pope and the one to whom Jesus entrusted the Church, shed his blood as a martyr.
“In Rome, almost 60 countries would be present, so we also were very excited to take part,” said Fr Martin. “It was the first time that the congregation would have a meeting with priests, sisters and lay people from all over the world,” he continued.
During the group’s stay in Rome, members had the opportunity to visit the incredible wonders the city had to offer. “We spent more than a week visiting the main basilicas, the churches and all the historic places. It was a week full of activities for us,” he said.
Whilst in Rome the group attended the IVE Meeting that had over 2000 participants with Priests, Sisters, and families from all over the world. “Although we didn’t know each other, immediately we felt like a family. We realized that we felt like that because all of us share the same faith,” Fr Martin expressed.
However, the highlight of the trip was the visit to the Holy Father, Pope Francis. “We did our best to contact him, but it was not easy, so one day we went to his house and left some presents for him and a letter from us. Later that same day while we were walking in Rome, with no more hope to see him, my mobile phone rang up, and I found a message from him, requesting for us to go see him, if they were still in Rome,” he added. Fr Martin immediately confirmed that they were in Rome and they were given an appointment for the next day.
Their visit saw them presenting some of PNG’s special gifts to the Pope.
“We sang a song in Tok Pisin to him, we prayed together to the Blessed Virgin and then he blessed us and all the People of Papua New Guinea,” recalled Fr Martin.
In Israel visits were made to the Holy Places from Bethlehem, Calvary, the garden of Getsemani, Mount Tabor, Galilee, and the places that Jesus walked, taught and did miracles.
Fr Martín extended his sincerest gratitude to the IVE Congregation for their support and accommodation in all these places, Bishop Francis Meli, for his support, those who helped in funding this trip, and the people of Holy Trinity Parish, in Vanimo Diocese, for their prayers and unconditional friendship.
The pilgrims of Vanimo have six more days left before their return trip back to Papua New Guinea.
(Pope Francis greets Vanimo pilgrims from Papua New Guinea)