Holy Land Pilgrimages on the Rise
Visiting New York priests and other pilgrims touch the Stone of Unction in Jerusalems Church of the Holy Sepulchre earlier this year. U.S. Franciscans with ties to the Holy Land predict the number of pilgrims visiting there will increase during the Year of Faith, which begins in October. (photo: CNS/Bob Mullen)
05 Apr 2012 by Carol Zimmermann
WASHINGTON (CNS) — Fear of violence in the
Middle East has not kept pilgrims away from the Holy
Land, according to U.S. Franciscan priests who frequent
the sites commemorating the birth, death and resurrection
of Jesus of faith, not just historical landmarks that are more like any hesitancy to visit these places is overcome
by faith and interest, said Franciscan Father Jeremy
Harrington, commissary and guardian of the Franciscan
Monastery of the Holy Land in Washington. The holy
sites, he added, remain safe places to visit despite unrest in the region.
Father Harrington also is sure the number of
pilgrims will increase during the Catholic Church's Year
of Faith, which will begin Oct. 11 — the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council — and conclude Nov. 24, 2013 — the feast of Christ the King.
In pastoral recommendations for the Year of
Faith, U.S. Cardinal William J. Levada, prefect of the
Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, stressed the
importance of pilgrimages to St. Peters Basilica in
Vatican City and to the Holy Land, the place which first saw the presence of Jesus, the Savior, and Mary, his
When pilgrims visit the Holy Land, they not only
come away with a deeper sense of their faith, but they also
show solidarity with the Christians living in the region,
Father Harrington told Catholic News Service.
Franciscan Father Garret Edmunds, a pilgrimage
guide in the Holy Land and vice commissary of the
Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Land in Washington,
said the number of pilgrims from Europe and North
America has been stable. In recent years, he has seen an
influx of pilgrims from Eastern Europe, Russia, India, the
Far East, Africa and Brazil, which he attributes to
Franciscan friars know plenty about the Holy
Land because they have been there for a long time. For
more than 750 years, they have had a ministry there
preserving shrines, welcoming pilgrims, leading parishes
and schools and housing, and feeding those in need.
To continue the ministry they rely on an annual
Good Friday pontifical collection that supports Christians
in the Holy Land.
Proceeds of the collection, coordinated by the
Congregation for Eastern Churches, are distributed to
Latin and Eastern Catholic bishops, parishes, schools and
projects in Israel, the Palestinian territories, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Cyprus and Egypt.
This spring the Vatican published a summary
report on how the Franciscan Custodians of the Holy Land
have used donations from recent collections. The funds
enabled the friars to improve facilities for pilgrims at a
number of holy sites at Bethlehem, Jerusalem and other
locations. Funds were also used to provide university
scholarships to students in the region, offered counseling,
housing and medical care to families in need and to build
or rebuild Catholic parishes and schools.
The friars work at the holy sites is particularly
important because it enables these places to be monuments
of faith, not just historical landmarks that are more like
museums, according to Father Harrington.
Tags: Middle East Christians Holy Land Jerusalem Pilgrimage/pilgrims Church of Holy Sepulchre