“It’s amazing; everyone should come. You are walking and seeing the Gospel with your own eyes.” Amparo, of Valencia, Spain, is among the first to visit the Holy Land since the pandemic, thanks to the lifting of travel restrictions to the country. With memories of her trip fresh on the mind, on the morning before returning home, she shares: “You truly have feelings that you don’t expect. What touched me the most was the meditation on Lake Tiberias and the Holy Sepulchre.”
Ana, from the same pilgrimage group, says, “The place that had the greatest impact on me was Gethsemane. We were fortunate to have the meditation and Mass there –the site helped me to pray a lot”. Being among the first pilgrims, they were able to enjoy the holy places without too many people or haste. “The most important sites are empty,” said Juan Alfonso, the priest of the group. “In fact you can visit the Holy Sepulchre, stay there as long as you’d want, pray without being thrown out, and with no queues.”
Those in the group who had previously visited the Holy Land have greatly appreciated the stillness that now resides in the holy sites, especially the Holy Sepulchre.”Because last time, they had to wait two and a half hours to enter,” says Lucia. For her, it was the first time. Here is how she sums up her experience: “It impressed me greatly. I go back home with an open mind that helps me see and read the Gospel through new eyes.” She adds, “Having been in the Land of our Lord and perceiving and living the places through which He passed makes us live the faith in a different way”.
On their first day, the group visited the Saxum Visitor Center, where they got a preview of their trip through the center’s multimedia resources. They shared that it’s helped them see how everything is related. “I loved connecting the Old Testament line with the historical events and with the New Testament,” says Lucia, pointing to the timeline with which the tour in Saxum begins. Regarding the maps, Ana comments that, “They helped us locate everything and also gave us an idea of how Jesus lived and the distances he had to travel.” Amparo has her own favorite: “The map room with the route of the Lord in the Passion –it is wonderful.”