In January 2018, the temperature in Jerusalem varies between 9 and 17 degrees, but the number of pilgrims is constantly increasing.
Confirming the data of the Ministry of Tourism of Israel, Brother Tomasz Dubiel, director of the Christian Information Center, gives good news: in January 2016, 390 groups booked a mass in the sanctuaries, with the participation of 11,000 pilgrims. In 2017, in the same time period, 16 thousand pilgrims arrived in 529 groups, but in January 2018, the number of groups increased to 770, for a total of 26 thousand pilgrims.
"The number of Catholics doubled in 2018," says Fr. Tomasz, but groups of other Christian denominations asking to pray in the sanctuaries are also on the rise.
Data from the Christian Information Center do not include the thousands of Orthodox pilgrims who visited the Holy Land for the Christmas holidays celebrated in January.
The faithful arrive all bundled up and willing to see many places in a short time.
The sacristan of the Latin Chapel, Brother Auksencjusz Gad, confirms the increase in masses celebrated in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. At this time of the year, there are mainly Asian pilgrims. Fr. Domenico, of the Missionary Congregation of the Passionists, led one such group, from South Korea. He spoke after visiting the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre:
"By the grace of God, we visited the shrines and lived a beautiful spiritual experience," Fr. Domenico shared. "We just celebrated in the chapel and we have a heart full of joy. I hope that other groups will also come to experience the encounter with the Lord Jesus.”
Also at the Basilica, we met a group of pilgrims from Portugal, with priests already dressed to celebrate Mass.
"I believe every Christian should save money and come to the Holy Land to visit the holy places. It is an investment in life.”
In December, the Apostolic Administrator, Br. Francesco Patton, made an appeal: "Pilgrims, do not be afraid. Come to the Holy Land!”
Reminding us that visiting the Holy Places is a unique experience that also helps local Christians, Brother Vitor Rafael, commissioner of the Holy Land in Portugal, also launched an appeal: "Let us not forget that the Christian communities of Bethlehem need a lot of help from pilgrims from all over the world. Do not be afraid. Come to Bethlehem!”
In the hope of further good news, a new year begins. In the holy places, while taking care of the chapels or preparing the celebrations, the Franciscans are waiting for the pilgrims with open arms.
Fr. Peter Vasko, OFM, President of the FFHL, will lead a pilgrimage to the Holy Land in November, 2018. To learn more, click here!
>>article courtesy of the Christian Media Center