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JERUSALEM- On Monday, April 17, 2017, the day after the Resurrection, some sixty people walked from Jerusalem to Emmaus-Nicopolis, retracing the road traveled by the famous “disciples of Emmaus”;  30 kilometers to meet Christ

At six in the morning, the day begins in Jerusalem. The pilgrims from all over the Holy Land gathered at the Cenacle for this special pilgrimage. Leading them was Sister Rebecca who knows the road by heart. Winding through tall grass,  she explains: “This idea of taking the road to Emmaus was launched a few years ago by a former volunteer who was passionate about the story of these two disciples. Since then, religious, volunteers, expatriates, or simple lovers of the Holy Land have spread the idea of the “walk to Emmaus”.  The tradition continues, as vibrant as 2000 years ago.

But where is Emmaus?

As the walk brings many people together, the place called Emmaus is still uncertain. The Gospel of St. Luke speaks of  160 stades (a stade is 607 feet) or 60 stades according to some manuscripts.  The first assumption appears to be the most probable, given the tradition of the Fathers of the Church and a particularly early hour at which the disciples would have left Jerusalem. This distance would correspond to  the city of Nicopolis (near the Latrun abbey .  In the 19th century, Saint Mary of Jesus Crucified, foundress of Carmel of Bethlehem and a mystic had a vision indicating that Nicopolis isi the place of sharing of bread which would confirm this assumption.

For others, the true Emmaus would be the town of  Abu Gosh, located about eight kilometers from Jerusalem (60 stades). However, most pilgrims see Abu Gosh as the village from where Jesus would have walked with the disciples. For the Franciscans, Emmaus corresponds to the Palestinian village of Qubeibeh, also venerated by many Christians on Easter Monday.

Encounter Christ through the other

“After all, the place does not really matter,  the important thing is the way,”  one of the young religious smiles.  Throughout the day, walking brings together the walkers who often walk and talk in pairs, like the two disciples. The pilgrimage ends with an open air Mass at Nicopolis, in the heart of the beautiful ruins of a Byzantine basilica. 

The Apostolic Administrator, Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa celebrated Mass for the first time for this occasion, with Bishop Marcuzzo Patriarchal Vicar in Israel.  After the walk which was full of encounters, the former Custos of the Holy Land opens hearts:  “By itself, we cannot understand the mystery of the resurrection. The risen Christ gives himself through the other. The Eucharist is not only a sacrament but also of being surprised by Christ, to share bread with each other. To make this encounter, we must set out along the way, like those disciples who sought Jesus outside the Upper Room. Christ cannot come to us unless we thirst for him, “said the Apostolic Administrator.

After the Eucharist, pilgrims and parishioners shared a convivial moment in a room adjacent to the Convent of the Beatitudes. Even though the disciples returned to Jerusalem on foot, the brave hikers were happy to find a place on a bus. With skin tanned and their hearts open, they returned to Jerusalem ready to proclaim the good news. 

Claire Guigou

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