The many restrictions on travel in the Holy Land due to the coronavirus epidemic have taken a heavy toll on Christians, many of whom live on the influx of pilgrims. They come from all over the world to tread the land on which the Son of God was incarnated.
Questioned on May 19, 2020 on Vatican News, Brother Stephen Milovitch, responsible for Human Resources and Cultural Property of the Custody of the Holy Land, describes a difficult situation for Christians in the Holy Land.
The Custody, specifies the monk, “employs approximately 1100 people, 60% of whom are in the schools, which are currently closed; 10% of them work in ‘Casa Nova,’ the reception center for pilgrims, which is also closed. About 10% work in retirement homes for the elderly, in Nazareth in particular. These houses are still in operation and we must find the funds to pay the employees. There is also the issue of lay-offs. These are all problems being experienced by the whole world, but are they also being experienced in the Holy Places.”
In addition, the traditional Good Friday collection, which funds a large number of social and educational activities, could not be organized, due to the strict confinement imposed by the State of Israel.
When we ask Brother Stephen Milovitch about the resumption of activity, the religious speaks with prudence: “It is difficult to make ambitious plans, because we do not yet know exactly when Israel will let the pilgrims enter,” he explains, adding that the era of great diocesan pilgrimages seems to be over.
On a positive note for the future, the reception of future pilgrims will be of higher quality: “they will take advantage of the retreat, they will have more time for contemplation and will lose less standing in line to enter the tomb or the Cave of the Nativity,” concludes the Franciscan.