“I have prayed for peace, especially in Syria, and in all the world because I don't want other people to live what I have lived, my experience,” Kassouha told CNA. He and his family remained in Aleppo throughout the country’s civil war and said he witnessed the death of many of his friends and family.
“We have to pray ... we cannot do anything without praying. We are so weak. That is my experience,” Kassouha, a 26 year-old Melkite Catholic, said. "We need this time to think about our lives and make a meditation.”
Priest chaplains could often be seen walking behind the pilgrimage groups hearing confessions of the young participants. Each group had a chaplain who provided meditations on the saints and catechesis on the social doctrine of the Church and this year’s pilgrimage theme, “The Peace of Christ through the Reign of Christ,” as they walked.
Since 1983 the Pentecost pilgrimage has been organized by Notre-Dame de Chrétienté, currently led by layman Jean des Tauriers and chaplain, Father Alexis Garnier of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter.
Because so many people come out in the streets to watch the pilgrimage pass by, this year the organizers added an “evangelization team” to engage with curious onlookers, Notre-Dame de Chrétienté Vice President Hervé Rolland explained.
"Each year we have people asking if they can follow us,” Rolland told CNA. "Two years ago there was a lady who was struck by the children walking ... she asked, 'Can I follow you?' She did, and six months later she asked to be baptized."
Rolland said that many vocations have also been discovered or confirmed for young people as they prayerfully walk the pilgrimage.
Three Masses took place over the course of the pilgrimage, each in the extraordinary form, though many private Masses were said as well. On Pentecost Mass took place in a field in the countryside midway through the day’s 20 mile walk.
The culminating Mass was celebrated in Chartres Cathedral by Archbishop André-Joseph Léonard, the emeritus Archbishop of Mechelen-Brussel.
“I want to tell the pilgrims something: the Catholic Church, no matter what anyone says, remains the most beautiful multinational of the world, that is the multinational of faith, hope and charity. Even if we are going through difficult times, we must always say the creed with conviction: I believe that the Church is one, holy, Catholic and apostolic. We must remember it is holy,” Archbishop Léonard told EWTN.
“In troubled times like ours, everywhere but especially in countries like France or Belgium, my country, there is a lot of confusion after the series of scandals we’ve faced, people definitely need to hang on to something sound. I think that an initiative like the Chartres Pilgrimage helps people to become stronger in faith and hope.”
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