Quesna (Agenzia Fides) – A five-day pilgrimage, along paths traveled by saints, prophets and penitents since time immemorial, to ask for the gift of interior reconciliation and discover God’s loving plan for one’s life. It is the intense, evocative experience shared by friars, nuns and hundreds of boys and girls who took part in the 29th Franciscan March, the traditional pilgrimage organized in Egypt by the Friars Minor, which this year took place around the destination of Mount Sinai, to then conclude with a divine liturgy celebrated by Coptic Catholic Bishop Hani Bakoum in Quesna, in the Cathedral dedicated to the Virgin Mary.
Mount Sinai has been a destination for Christian pilgrims since the 4th century AD. The “Franciscan March” appears to be in full harmony with government policies that have been aiming for years to promote Egypt as a destination for suggestive Christian pilgrimages. In the statements released to the Egyptian media, Father Milad Shehata, Director of the Franciscan Cultural Center in Cairo, remarked that for the boys and girls involved in the pilgrimage – which had as its slogan the phrase “I have something to tell you” – represented a propitious moment of prayer, silence and fraternal coexistence, an ideal opportunity to recognize the horizon of happiness to which one’s life is called, in the following of Jesus. The Franciscan priest also expressed his intention to invite Muslim friends to the next Franciscan march.
The tradition of Christian pilgrimages that cross the lands of Egypt dates back to the fourth century after Christ. The foundation of the Monastery of Saint Catherine, in Sinai, dates back to Saint Helena, mother of Emperor Constantine who in 328 had a first chapel built in the place where according to tradition Moses spoke with God, in the biblical episode of the burning bush. The oldest documented news of the place of worship dedicated to Saint Catherine in Sinai can be found in the “Way of Egeria”, the native nun of Gaul who collected in her work the story of the biblical places visited on a long pilgrimage made between 381 and 384. Since then, some of the Christians who went on pilgrimage to Jerusalem used to also include Sinai in their itinerary. A spiritual practice that continued even after rulers belonging to Islam arrived to dominate Egypt.