The Chilean miners who organized daily prayer sessions during their 68-day
ordeal underground last year visited some of Jerusalem’s holiest Christian sites
in an ecstatic celebration of faith and gratitude on Thursday.
“It is a
great honor for us to be here, because the God who rescued us from the bowels of
the earth is the God who brought us here, and we are so grateful,” said miner
Jose Enriques. “It is amazing to be here, in this place, to be able to thank God
for what he did for us.”
Chilean miners arrive for ‘pilgrimage of thanks’
The Church of the Holy Sepulchre, which
believers maintain holds the cave where Jesus was buried, as well as the hill
where the cross stood, was the highlight of their eight-day spiritual pilgrimage
in Israel, many of the miners said on Thursday.
Twenty-three of the 33
miners, as well as spouses and girlfriends, are visiting Israel this week as
guests of the Tourism Ministry. On Thursday, they also visited the Western Wall
and the Garden Tomb, which Protestants believe could have been an alternative
site of the crucifixion and resurrection.
“It was a terrible accident,
but I think what God wants is for us to be able to unite the world in prayer,”
Enriques said while standing in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, referring to
the August 5 mine cave-in. “He took this terrible accident and he has used it
for something good to unite the entire world.”
The rabbi of the Western
Wall, Shmuel Rabinowitz, told the miners that Jews around the world had prayed
for their safety. Many of the miners placed notes in the wall after Tourism
Minister Stas Meseznikov gave them an official welcome.
Per the miners’
request, the group did not visit the Western Wall Tunnels.
exciting what we’re seeing; we’ve been waiting for these things,” said Jorge
Geilos, one of the miners. “Before, we never thought this could have
Father Fergus, head of the Franciscan Community at the Church
of the Holy Sepulchre, said the experience of visiting the church had been
particularly deep for the miners because they were able to identify with the
story of Jesus in the context of their own lives.
“There is a very potent
emotional parallel experience with the miners. They seemed to be dead and came
back to life,” he told The Jerusalem Post. He also praised the Tourism Ministry
for putting the most spiritual part at the beginning of the trip, providing a
framework for the eight-day pilgrimage to the Holy Land.
The media frenzy
around the miners’ pilgrimage had not abated since they arrived on Wednesday,
and inside the Holy Sepulchre the miners and their wives were outnumbered some
four-to-one by local and international media.
“We’re bringing the message
that the Holy Land is for every faith to come and give thanks for something
wonderful, and to pray during the harder days,” Raphael Ben Hur, the Tourism
Ministry’s senior deputy-director-general told the Post as the miners wove their
way through the alleys of the Jewish Quarter on the way to the Western
“We have great sympathy for what they went through, and [for] their
difficult struggles and personal struggles, the same way Israel has throughout
history, and that’s why we brought them to pray here,” he said.