x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Catholics prepare for pilgrimage in lead-up to Easter

Catholics will make their annual Holy Week pilgrimage around the UAE's seven Catholic churches tomorrow.

ABU DHABI // Catholic Filipinos will tomorrow make their annual Holy Week pilgrimage around the churches of the UAE.

For the Visita Iglesia (Spanish for "church visits"), they will offer prayers in up to seven churches.

The journey is traditionally made on the evening of Maundy Thursday, which is today, but in the UAE it has been shifted to Friday, as fewer people have to work.

"The churches are located far from each other, so it takes time to visit all of them," said Rolly Briones, the visiting priest at St Mary's Church in Dubai.

There are seven Catholic churches in the UAE - St Joseph's in Abu Dhabi, St Mary's in Dubai and Al Ain, St Francis of Assisi in Jebel Ali, St Michael's in Sharjah, Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Fujairah and St Anthony de Padua in Ras Al Khaimah.

The procession will begin at St Mary's in Dubai at 6.30am, ending at St Francis de Assisi in Jebel Ali at 10pm. At each church, worshippers will meditate at two of the 14 Stations of the Cross, one of the most important devotions honouring the passion of Jesus Christ.

"I'm happy that I'm able to do it here and to experience this tradition," said Merla Bungcasan, 39, a personal assistant in Dubai.

Her group has organised four buses for the journey, while others will follow in their cars.

"I've always been a pilgrim at heart," she said. "This is a special time of the year since we're given time to reflect and commemorate on Christ's suffering."

Some choose to make their pilgrimage ahead of time.

Maynard dela Cruz, 37, a computer technician in Abu Dhabi, visited four churches with his wife Linda, 42, and their daughters Maylin and Jorja, 5 and 10, last Friday.

They started at 8am at St Joseph's in Abu Dhabi, drove to St Mary's in Al Ain, then St Francis of Assisi in Jebel Ali, reaching St Mary's in Oud Metha, Dubai, by 3pm.