NY Catholic, Jewish, Muslim police tour Holy Land

Fri Sep 3, 2010 10:21am EDT
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By Tom Heneghan, Religion Editor

NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - Brian Reilly's visit to Jerusalem had a special touch this year because Jewish and Muslim colleagues joined him at the site believed to be where Jesus Christ was crucified and buried.

On the same trip, Ahmed Nasser showed Christians and Jews a mosque in Haifa decorated with a Koran quote about the Virgin Mary and a Star of David in the Mohammad Ali mosque in Cairo.

Lawrence Wein struck up a conversation with a Palestinian policeman in Bethlehem who invited the group of visiting Jews, Christians and Muslims to his station house for tea and talk about how their job can be the same the world over.

The three are officers in the New York Police Department (NYPD) who went on the first of what they hope will be annual visits to the Holy Land this year to get to know each others' religions -- and each other -- better.

The trip, from May 20 to June 3, took the group of 47 -- NYPD officers, relatives and three Franciscan friars -- around Israel, the Palestinian territories and Egypt.

Jewish and Christian officers have been taking Holy Land tours together since 2005, all at their own expense, and this year was the first time that Muslim colleagues joined the tour.

Sitting in his office on the Lower East Side, Sgt. Reilly, 49, commanding officer of the NYPD chaplains unit and a past president of the Holy Name Society for Catholic police, said he gets inspired every time he takes the interfaith tour.

At the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, he said, "I looked around and I could see the Muslim guys and the Jewish guys. It was a great feeling to share this."   Continued...

<p>A view of the Western Wall, Judaism's holiest prayer site, and the Dome of the Rock, on the left, in the Old City of Jerusalem, in a file photo. REUTERS/Ammar Awad</p>