Since St. Francis first met with the Arabian sultan in 1219 and the Franciscans created the “Province of the Holy Land” in 1217, they’ve been living, serving, and welcoming pilgrims in the Holy Land. They not only know the region as locals, but have custody of many of the most holy places in the region. In addition, they have solid relationships with the religious denominations who have custody of other holy sites, gaining them easier access to those places as well.
The following is a partial list of the shrines for which the Franciscans serve as caretakers:
- The Basilica of the Annunciation – Nazareth
- The Basilica of the Nativity – Bethlehem
- Capernaum – Jesus’ hometown
- The Church of the First Miracle – Cana
- The Basilica of the Transfiguration – Mt. Tabor
- The Church of St. Lazarus – Bethany
- The Basilica of the Agony – Gethsemane
- The Basilica of the Holy Sepulcher – Jerusalem
What About Safety?
There are many people who wish to visit the Holy Land but hesitate to book a pilgrimage because they’re concerned about safety. Yes, there has been instability in the region for hundreds of years, yet the Christian holy sites have remained safe for pilgrims.
With Christians now representing only 2% of the population in places like Bethlehem, Christians in the region need our support now more than ever! These Christians depend on the tourism industry to survive, and a steady stream of pilgrims helps support their livelihood and keep them in the Holy Land. Without Christian pilgrims, we may completely lose a Christian presence in the Holy Land.
Here’s what we can tell you about your safety on pilgrimage:
- Because the Holy Land is our home, we are aware of the “climate” of the region. If tensions have increased due to a recent event, we will have first-hand knowledge of it and be able to make itinerary changes if necessary and put safeguarding measures into effect. We would never expose a group to a site or an area where there is increased probability of violence.
- We are confident in the security teams in place at each of the holy sites we visit and the hotels where we stay.
- If the situation was not safe, we would not bring a pilgrimage group to the Holy Land. If we had to cancel a pilgrimage for any reason, we would refund your expense, excluding airline accommodations, which you would handle with your airline. Consider purchasing cancellation insurance when booking your flight if you feel there’s any chance you might cancel it.
- Pilgrims are not the intended targets of terrorists as all peoples in the Holy Land region depend on tourism as a means of support. Christians and Christian holy sites are also not typically targeted by attackers. Pilgrims from western countries often remark how much safer they feel in the Holy Land than in their homeland!
- No pilgrimage is without danger, and even traveling within the U.S. can be dangerous. Crowded places frequented by many tourists and visitors are are all considered possible targets by terrorists in our world today, which is why most have increased security since 9/11. It’s a risk any of us take when we travel, but many feel an opportunity to support Holy Land Christians and walk in the footsteps of Jesus is worth the risk.