Beta Version

Blessing of Saxum Visitor Center: accomplishment for Opus Dei

Published: March 05 Tue, 2019

Blessing of Saxum Visitor Center: accomplishment for Opus Dei Available in the following languages:

ABU GOSH – On Friday, March 1, 2019, the official blessing of the Saxum Visitor Center took place, a few weeks after its inauguration in Abu Gosh. The celebration was presided over by Monsignor Mariano Fazio, Vicar General of the Prelature of Opus Dei from Rome for this event and by Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa, Apostolic Administrator of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem.

The celebration took place in the packed chapel of the Saxum Visitor Center; smiles were visible on the faces; a moment of joy, pride, and accomplishment for many people present on the day. Priests and religious joined in the blessing: Benedictines of Abu Gosh, priests of Opus Dei, Fr. David Neuhaus, Fr. Ibrahim Shomali and others.

Henri Gourinard, a member of Opus Dei who participated in the construction of the Saxum Visitor Center, shared his feeling and joy at seeing this project come to an end. He also agreed to answer a few questions to learn more about the Saxum Center, which consists of two parts: the Visitor Center; a multimedia tour that traces the history of the Holy Land and the Conference Center that welcomes pilgrims for retreats. Also, the opportunity to better know the presence of Opus Dei in the Holy Land.

What was your role during the construction of the Visitor Center?

I have been involved since about 2014, and I started to work before the Saxum Conference Center became a reality, all was still under construction. At that time, the project to create a pilgrimage route between Jerusalem and Emmaus was completed already in our minds. Between 2014 and 2019, I had several meetings with the local authorities, including the Jewish National Fund to find the ideal route and to make sure everything would be in proper order. The Saxum Conference Center opened its doors two years ago, and we are thrilled to open the Visitor Center.

What is the purpose of the Saxum Conference Center?

This center exists to welcome the pilgrims, forty-three maximum, and to allow everyone to experience beautiful encounters by following spiritual retreats more specific to Opus Dei with the particularity of taking place in the Holy Land. Pilgrims do not live at the Saxum Conference Center as one would live in a hotel: pilgrimages, formations on the Holy Land and the Bible are organized. We make sure that the activities are international allowing everyone to participate; they are not too intensive and are characterized by a very spiritual dimension.

Who is behind this center?

In March 1994, Bishop Álvaro del Portillo, then Prelate of Opus Dei, and Javier Echevarría returned from a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. On the day of their return on March 23, Bishop del Portillo returned to the Father. This event prompted Javier Echevarría, who was elected Prelate, to consider the creation of a center in the Holy Land dedicated to the spiritual activities of Opus Dei.

It is also important to mention that the founder, Josemaría Escrivá de Balaguer, was very anxious that members of Opus Dei could be trained in the study and meditation of the Bible in the Holy Land.

In a few words, can you define what Opus Dei is?

Opus Dei means the Work of God in Latin, the message of Opus Dei is directed to ordinary Christians and is validated by the Second Vatican Council: “Every baptized person has not only the luck but the obligation to try to be a saint.” Holiness is not something that is reserved for a certain elite, “be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Mt 5:48). Give lay people the means to find this holiness in the midst of their ordinary work, for example, there is real sanctification in “ordinary work.” It is important to emphasize that it is not necessary to be part of Opus Dei to act like this. Within Opus Dei, 90% of people live with their families; there are some priests and lay people like me who have made celibate promises to be available 100% for service, mainly for training or spiritual tasks.

How is Opus Dei present in the Holy Land?

Opus Dei has been present in the Holy Land since the early 90’s, two priests from Opus Dei settled here, one of them was working at Notre Dame in Jerusalem, the other was supporting him. They formed and studied the possibilities of settling down in the Holy Land in the long term. A few years later, members of Opus Dei; men and women joined them. Opus Dei now has two centers, one in Jerusalem and the other in Haifa, with about 70 members, and also offers activities in several towns in the Holy Land.

What is the blessing of the Saxum Visitor Center to you and the other members of Opus Dei?

It’s the last stone, which is the most important for us! I recall that in 2013, the former prelate of Opus Dei, Javier Echevarría had come to the Holy Land, the constructions had just started, and the first stone was then blessed.

At the end of the celebration, the participants gathered for a time of sharing and joy especially on the terrace which has a splendid view.

Irénée Julien-Laferrière