Cairo (Agenzia Fides) - Pope Francis’ visit is a propitious occasion to promote Egypt as a destination for Christian pilgrimages and religious tourism, allowing the world to know the initiatives and measures put in place also by national policies of tourism to revive the routes related to the "Way of the Holy Family". The suggestion is addressed to Egyptian authorities from tourism entrepreneurs like Dina Tadros, tour operator specialized in organizing pilgrimages to Christian sites scattered in Egypt. The entrepreneur advises to take into account such perspective, even in the definition of the program of the papal visit, including a short visit of the Pope in a place touched by the new pilgrimage routes also sponsored by the Ministry of Tourism, which recently, under the coordination of Hisham el Demeiri (former head of the Egyptian Authority for the promotion of tourism) supported the restoration of the Abu Sarga cave church, dating from the fifth century, built, according to local tradition, the place where the Holy Family rested before starting the journey back to Palestine.
The relaunch of the "Way of the Holy Family" - itinerary for pilgrimages to be made in the places that, according to ancient local traditions, were traveled by the Holy Family during their exile in Egypt - has long been at the center of proposals and lively debate involving politicians and Egyptian tourism operators. At the beginning of 2017 Abdel Aal, President of the Egyptian House of Representatives, during a visit to the offices of the Coptic Patriarchate, reiterated that the development of the tourism project to be set out by following the paths carried out in Egypt by Joseph, Mary and Baby Jesus, are interesting and involves all Egyptians, not just Christians.
The first proposals for the improvement, of the "Way of the Holy Family" date back to twenty years ago. At the end of 2016 - reported local sources consulted by Agenzia Fides - a committee for the revival of the Holy Family Way was established at the Egyptian Ministry of Tourism, under the presidency of Hisham el Demeiri
According to supporters of the initiative, the tourist development of the "Way of the Holy Family" could increase the annual share of tourists in Egypt by at least one million units, with pilgrimages concentrated especially at Christmas time. Two years ago (see Fides 21/10/2014) the ideal path of the pilgrimage following the footsteps of the Holy family in Egypt had been identified, which should start from the town of Al-Arish - the town in northern Sinai which recently became the scene of targeted violence against Copts by jihadist groups - then move towards the delta and Wadi Natrun, and reach Assiut and the Monastery of the Virgin Mary, known as the Monastery of Al-Muharraq. (GV) (Agenzia Fides 21/03/2017)