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Visiting holy sites? Come as pilgrims not tourists

Visiting holy sites? Come as pilgrims not tourists

A Saxum Visitor Center guide shows pilgrims a timeline of Biblical and world history

By Fr. Mickey Cardenas

April 11, 2019


A visit to the holy places is always meant to be a life-changing experience. But do people who come to the Holy Land get the most out of their visit spiritually?

This was the challenge presented to the 17 Philippine delegates, together with their counterparts from 12 other countries, participating in the international workshop “In the Footprints of our Faith” recently held in the Saxum Conference Center in this city.

“Many of us who come to the Holy Land want to see new sights, take many ‘selfies’, and buy a lot of souvenirs, but return home the same person as the one who left,” observed workshop delegate Delia Tantuico, Vice Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences of the University of Asia and the Pacific (UA&P).

Precisely to address this, participants received an orientation on the Holy Land pilgrimage in the newly inaugurated Saxum Visitor Center in the village of Abu Ghosh, 13 kilometers west of Jerusalem.

Visitor center for pilgrims

Blessed on March 1, 2019, by the apostolic administrator of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa, OFM, the Saxum Visitor Center helps pilgrims deepen their knowledge of the Holy Land through different multimedia resources to enrich their Holy Land experience.

The Visitor Center offers the following services and facilities:

  • Multimedia tour of the historical, geographical, and Biblical explanation of the main events of salvation history
  • Auditorium for lectures and events
  • Chapel where visitors may attend Mass, go to Confession, or simply pray

Moreover, those who want to relive Jesus Christ’s encounter with the disciples on the road to Emmaus will find a starting point at the Saxum Visitor Center.


According to Saxum Visitor Center Director Almudena Romero, St. Josemaria, founder of Opus Dei, longed to visit the Holy Land to “follow in the steps of Jesus Christ”.

“He always recommended to those who sought his advice to imagine oneself as one more character in the scenes when reading the Gospel,” she explained.

According to Romero, Escriva used the name ‘Saxum’ – Latin for ‘rock’– to refer to his closest collaborator and first successor, Blessed Alvaro del Portillo, because of “his faithfulness and his fortitude.”

In 1994, Blessed Álvaro del Portillo made a pilgrimage to the Holy Land where he celebrated his last Mass on earth in the Church of the Cenacle in Jerusalem.That same year, inspired by Saint Josemaría’s wish, and in memory of Álvaro del Portillo, the Prelature of Opus Dei, together with cooperators and friends, initiated the establishment of the Saxum Conference Center and Saxum Visitor Center in the Holy Land.

Taking part in Bible scenes

“The Visitor Center hopes to help each pilgrim’s personal encounter with Christ in His land, offering a chance to take a part in the scenes of the Bible. It is open to all, so we invite everyone to contact us at the Saxum Foundation website and Facebook page,” Romero said.

After completing the workshop, Elvira Sabado of PAREF Rosehill School proposed Saxum as either pilgrims’ first or last stop “because it can serve as an introduction to the Holy Land at the beginning, or, after they have already visited the holy sites, as a fitting conclusion at the end.”

Evelyn Sindico, Principal of Wadeford School in Kalibo, Aklan, summed it all up by saying, “You cannot appreciate fully the holy sites if you come as a tourist. You have to be a pilgrim.”