More than 10,000 kilometers separate Rio de Janeiro from Jerusalem.This is the distance that Raul traveled to make one of those life-changing trips: a pilgrimage to the Holy Land.
“Spectacular,” he summarizes. “There are no words to define what a visit to the Holy Land is like. They told me that it is like a fifth Gospel, and it really is. It is living the life of Our Lord here on earth. To walk where He walked, to see the landscapes He saw, to be where He was…” Journeying with him is Carlos, from Sao Paulo, who assures that the trip exceeded his expectations. “It’s exciting to realize that Our Lord’s incarnation took place in a specific historical time and geographical space,” he reflects.
It has not gone unnoticed that they were not the only ones happy about their trip. “After two years of closed borders due to the pandemic, I could see the joy of the local people welcoming pilgrims and tourists again,” says Carlos. “Many were unemployed and, little by little, things are getting back to normal.”
“It is an international place, the religious center of the world.”
Indeed, it seems that the dream is coming true: the pilgrims are back to stay. Still in modest figures, groups from all over the world are traveling to visit or rediscover the Holy Land. It is expected that the number will increase as the months go by, as Holy Week arrives and the weather becomes warmer. For those who come, it is an experience that leaves no one indifferent; for those who receive them, it is a great hope after two years of drought in the tourist sector, particularly religious tourism.
Although the holy places have not recovered their pre-pandemic flux, they continue to touch the depths of the souls of those who visit them. For Raul, “it was reliving the life of Christ in these places, and feeling even more the presence of the Lord. His presence is very much felt here. It is like a living Gospel.” Carlos adds,”After the pilgrimage, it is much easier to meditate on the texts of Sacred Scripture and pray with the Gospel.”
There are some places that are especially helpful for the imagination, because they continue to resemble the landscapes that Jesus saw. This is the case for the Sea of Galilee, Mount Tabor and the Judean desert. “I really enjoyed contemplating the path through the valley that goes from Jericho to Jerusalem, imagining that Our Lord had passed through this path several times,” recounts Carlos.
Finally, pilgrims never cease to be amazed by the mosaic of races, languages and cultures they find in the Holy Land: “It is an international place, the religious center of the world.”
Main picture: A group of pilgrims in Mount of Olives, where you can see a scenic view of Jerusalem | M. Reilly