Friday,22 February, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1364, (12 - 18 October 2017)
Friday,22 February, 2019
Issue 1364, (12 - 18 October 2017)

Ahram Weekly

Following in the footsteps of the Holy Family

Can religious tourism solve the sector’s woes, asks Michael Adel


The Holy Family flight through Egypt
The Holy Family flight through Egypt
Al-Ahram Weekly

The Ministry of Tourism received an icon depicting the Holy Family in Egypt from Pope Francis together with his blessings for attempts to include the Holy Family’s journey in Egypt on the pilgrimage tourist map.

The icon was presented to an Egyptian delegation comprising Ministry of Tourism officials and businessmen as they were visiting the Vatican.

“We will send a message of peace to the world from the Holy Family’s cave in Darnaka,” says Father Louka Al-Assiuti, head of the Monastery of the Virgin Mary in Darnaka.

The monastery is currently coordinating with the Tourism Development Authority in Assiut to receive tourists, he added.

“Abu Serga Church in Old Cairo has been completely renovated,” says Father Angilos Girgis. The church, he announces proudly, “is built on the only site at which Jesus stopped twice, on his way to and from Rafah”.

“The church, originally built in the fourth century, suffered damage from humidity and rising water. It has now been restored in coordination with the Ministry of Antiquities.”

“We have uncovered some of the ground on which Jesus walked. The area is encased with glass for visitors to see,” says Girgis.

“The Catholic Church of Egypt is thrilled Pope Francis has given his blessing to a pilgrimage route following the journey of the Holy Family in Egypt. It will encourage millions of Catholics to visit the holy sites in our country,” says Father Hani Bakhoum, deputy head of the Catholic Patriarchate in Egypt.

“All the sites to be included in the pilgrimage route are administered by the Orthodox Cathedral and eight are already able to receive tourists.”

According to Father Rafik Greish, spokesperson of the Catholic Church, negligence has taken its toll on many sites. Greish demanded more attention be paid to a number of stops in the Holy Family’s journey, not least the Virgin Mary Tree.

“Pope Francis’ decision to add the Holy Family’s journey in Egypt to the Vatican’s programme of pilgrimage will help tourism in Egypt,” says Nader Girgis, a member in the Committee of Reviving the Route of the Holy Family.

He believes millions of Christians will visit Egypt to follow in the tracks of the Holy Family.

More than two billion Christians travel on pilgrimage annually. “If we successfully target just one in 1,000 pilgrims it means Egypt will receive an additional two million tourists every year,” he says.

Programmes following the Holy Family’s journey in Egypt are due to begin in May 2018.

The route of the Holy Family’s journey in Egypt has never been part of the Vatican’s pilgrimage programme before.

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