Hope returns to the Holy Land with the arrival of the first groups. After a great effort by the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Tourism of Israel, the holy places are beginning to feel the presence of pilgrims again. After the first groups organised by the Ministry of Tourism, at the end of June, the first group from Naples, Italy, led by the Franciscans.
Br CARLOS MOLINA, ofm
Director of Casa Nova – Nazareth
"With great joy, and I would like to say with pure and humble joy, and so I say pure because it is a feeling that comes from the heart to see the Holy Land inhabited once again by pilgrims with Christians who come to experience Jesus in his land. Humble: because we have nothing to boast about other than the simplicity of being children of God in the land of Jesus".
Among the groups visiting the Holy Sepulchre, there was also one from the parish of Jaffa, led by Brother Eduardo Sánchez.
During the first week of July, a group of pilgrims organised by the Roman Pilgrimage Organisation (Opera Romana Pellegrinaggi), an activity of the Vicariate of Rome, an organ of the Holy See, arrived in Jerusalem with a precise aim: to visit the shrines and have contact with the various local realities. Cardinal Enrico Feroci was also on the pilgrimage, together with a group of guides and journalists.
At the meeting with the Patriarch of the Latins of Jerusalem at the Patriarchate, H.B. Archbishop Pizzaballa defined the Pilgrimage as a new form of Evangelisation. The basis is a spiritual motivation. And it cannot be separated from an experience with the Word of God here where the Word became flesh. Bishop Pizzaballa also spoke about the various aspects of the Christian communities in the Holy Land and their challenges.
Following the streets of the old city of Jerusalem, the other meeting was with Brother Dobromir Jasztal, Vicar of the Custody of the Holy Land. In his presentation on the Custody, Br Dobromir reinforced the 800 years of Franciscan presence in the Middle East. Today, the Custody is an international community with 271 friars of 50 nationalities who guard the holy places, welcoming pilgrims, parishes and maintaining a great service of assistance to local Christians with schools, houses for the needy and other necessities.
On Tuesday afternoon, the group made its solemn entrance into the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre with the ancient rite of welcoming pilgrims. Sinisha welcomed the group on behalf of the Custody of the Holy Land.
HE Cardinal ENRICO FEROCI
Parish priest of the parish of Santa Maria del Divino Amore
"This place is always a place that speaks for itself, many times I have knelt there and put my head on that stone which received the body of Christ. St Paul says that if Christ had not risen, our faith would be in vain. So this is a fundamental and central point of our experience. So this seems to me to be a moment of hope and also of inner joy in thanksgiving for what the Lord has done for us."
In the words of Mgr Enrico Feroci there is emotion and joy: "St John says: "we have seen him with our eyes and touched him with our hands, and we proclaim him to you so that your joy may be full". This is our joy that Christ is risen and gives confidence and hope to our life, to our existence.
Fr FILIPPO MORLACCHI
Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem
"The most beautiful thing is to think that these places are not kept as a historical memory of stones and memories, which are still important because history is part of our faith. But beyond these stones, beyond these places, beyond these sanctuaries, there are communities who guard these sanctuaries, who live in these places, who pray in these places. Then we only hope that this will be an opportunity not only for many tourists to visit this land but for many faithful who, by drawing on the roots of their faith, can find the reasons to live it more deeply by returning to their countries of origin".
In the words of Fr Remo Chiavarini of the Pilgrimage Society, the experience of many groups in the Holy Land and the challenges of the present moment.
Fr REMO CHIAVARINI
Managing director of the Opera romana pellegrinaggi
"Since last year in February, we have returned with great joy, with great surprise, with great emotion. But I'm convinced that my hope is that the pilgrims will return soon, and I hope that in the meantime, those unfortunate health problems that make coming here so tiring, will also disappear."
Between visiting the Basilica of the Nativity in Bethlehem, the Cenacle, the group also visited the Custody's communication centre where the CMC is also located.
A few days to visit the holy places but also to comply with the health regulations, always respecting the needs of each country.
In Nazareth, they celebrated Holy Mass in honour of St Joseph in the Church of the Nutrition with the handing over of the image of Our Lady of Loreto to the church.