Positive data

Holy Land: Custody, record-breaking January for pilgrimages. 770 visiting groups for a total of 26,000 pilgrims

Santo Sepolcro, Gerusalemme

This was a record-breaking January for pilgrimages to the Holy Land with 770 visiting groups for a total of 26,000 pilgrims. Statistics show that there has been a steady increase in the number of visits since 2016, the website of the Custody reports, citing the words of Father Tomasz Dubiel, Director of the Christian Information Center (CIC): “in January 2016, 390 groups have booked a mass in the sanctuaries, with the participation of 11,000 pilgrims. In 2017, in the same time period, 16 thousand pilgrims arrived in 529 groups, but in January 2018, the number of groups increased to 770, for a total of 26 thousand pilgrims”. The data confirm those released by Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics and relayed by SIR news agency: 3,611,800 arrivals were recorded in 2017, that is, a 23% increase compared to 2016 and a 29% increase compared to 2015. “The number of Catholics doubled in 2018”, the Franciscan said, and “groups of other Christian denominations asking to pray in the sanctuaries are also on the rise”. The data from the Christian Information Center – the body of the Custody of the Holy Land in charge of providing a real-time information service to pilgrims, starting from the booking of masses in shrines – do not include the thousands of Orthodox pilgrims who visited the Holy Land for the Christmas holidays celebrated in January. Another indicator of this growing trend is the increase in the number of masses celebrated in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, as the sacristan of the Latin Chapel, Brother Auksencjusz Gad, reported. At this time of the year, pilgrims come mainly from Asia. The data from the CIC are in line with those of Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics which had called 2017 a “record year”, as never before had the threshold of 3 million visitors been exceeded. Italy’s performance was also positive: indeed, there were 107,700 arrivals from Italy in 2017 (excluding one-day visitors and cruise passengers), a figure that was up by 26% compared to 2016 and by 28% compared to 2015. In the month of December 2017 alone, 14,000 Italians travelled to Israel, 31% more than in December 2016 (+101% compared to December 2015). Based on these data, Italy ranks 6th among European countries and 8th in the world for the number of visitors to the Holy Land. Topping the list is the US with 778,800 visitors in 2017, 20% more than in 2016, followed by Russia (331,500), France (308,600), Germany (218,100), and the United Kingdom (198,500). The joint appeal issued during the Christmas season by the Custos of the Holy Land, Father Francesco Patton, and by the Apostolic Administrator of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, Mgr. Pierbattista Pizzaballa, seems to have been successful: “The Holy Land has always been safe and pilgrims can come in peace. We hope that this upward trend will continue for the rest of the year that has just begun”. Which has indeed occurred.