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Egypt: Coptic Orthodox monks of Wadi El Natrun, “the pilgrimage in the footsteps of the Holy Family is one of the many fruits of the Pope’s visit”

Monastero copto ortodosso della Vergine Maria, a Wadi el Natrun, Egitto. (Foto Sir/Rocchi)


(From Alexandria) “The pilgrimage in Egypt, in the footsteps of the Holy Family, is one of the many fruits of Pope Francis’s visit to Egypt in April 2017 and of his excellent relationships with Pope Tawadros”. With these words, Claudius, Coptic Orthodox monk of the monastery of the Holy Virgin “Deir el Sorian”, in Wadi El Natrun, approximately 100 km from Cairo, welcomed the delegation of Unitalsi (the National Italian association for the transport of the sick to places of worship), led by Preziosa Terrinoni and by don Gianni Toni, president and ecclesiastic assistant for the Rome-Latium section, respectively, who are in Egypt these days to organise a pilgrimage on the places that the Holy Family walked along as they fled from Herod, in close synergism with the Egyptian Tourism Board. The “Wadi El Natrun” Valley, which is dotted with several Coptic Orthodox monasteries, with over 200 monks, is one of the destinations included in the pilgrimage, the accomplishment of which is one of the key aspirations of the Egyptian institutions, which in this way wish to increase arrivals to the country, thus reviving the religious and pilgrimage tourism business. “Now that the country is more stable – the monk added –, it’s easier to receive pilgrimages and devotees from all over the world. Something is already happening, but we are waiting for groups of Italian devotees”. Because of their devotion to the Holy Virgin, “a lot of Muslims too come to the monastery”. Then, the Unitalsi delegation met father Sergious, who coordinates monastic activities in the monastery. “We wish lots of pilgrims may come back. Our monasteries – he explained – are witnessing a flourishing of vocations, and this is also because of the history of the Coptic Church, which is full of martyrs, old and new. Just think of the many victims of the terrorist attacks on the churches, which have cut short the lives of many of our Muslim brothers as well. Martyrs are one of the pillars of our Church”. “We expect – father Sergious concluded – pilgrimages to improve ecumenical dialogue”. In the meantime, a huge dome is being built in the area opposite the monastery of the Holy Virgin to host a visitor centre where devotees will be able to listen to the descriptions of the local monasteries in different languages. When finished, the building will accommodate up to 10 thousand pilgrims. According to the National Egyptian Tourism Board, so far the Government has allocated 20 million euros to build or update the infrastructure along the places of the Holy Family’s way. In addition, at the proposal of SIB (Italian Charity Association, a non-profit organisation founded in 1903) and its president, Eugenio Benedetti Gallo, and with the support of the Egyptian Embassy to Italy and of the Egyptian Government itself, Unitalsi has committed to organising two pilgrimages in the next few months with the diocese of Viterbo, which SIB has been working with lately in cultural initiatives that will be held in the Papal Palace in Viterbo next spring.


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