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.”

RELATED:
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.

“It’s very 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 happened.”

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 Wall.

“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.

Please LIKE our Facebook page - it makes us stronger