x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Pilgrims cross country for Easter

More than 120 Filipinos travelled on buses to visit every Catholic church in UAE to reflect and pray on Good Friday.

Filipino Catholics gathered at St Francis of Assisi Church in Jebel Ali early yesterday.
Filipino Catholics gathered at St Francis of Assisi Church in Jebel Ali early yesterday.

It was a day of reflection as Catholic pilgrims travelled the country visiting their faith's seven churches on Good Friday.

From Ras Al Khaimah to Abu Dhabi, more than 120 Filipinos made the annual Holy Week journey yesterday.

The atmosphere in the four buses was solemn as they contemplated the life of Jesus Christ and their duty as Christians.

Between stops, the worshippers listened to talks by preachers from the Philippines, listened to gospel readings and conducted the rosary.

It was Alicha Dillamueva's first time on the pilgrimage.

The office administrator, 30, has lived in the UAE for four years and is a member of the social group Singles for Christ.

"It's our duty to perform this pilgrimage," Ms Dillamueva said, adding it had brought her closer to her religion and was an experience she would not forget.

"It's more powerful than just going to church. I feel that God is with us, especially with me.

"We must remember what Jesus did for us. He died for us and we must reflect on that pain."

In each of the churches the pilgrims made prayer intentions.

Ms Dillamueva said she asked for the health of herself and her parents, and a good job.

Some of the worshippers fasted while others chose to eat simple food such as bread on the day that represents the crucifixion of Jesus.

The pilgrims gathered at St Francis of Assisi Church in Jebel Ali and made their first stop at St Mary's Catholic Church in Dubai.

The pilgrimage is traditionally made on the evening of Maundy Thursday, but was moved to yesterday this year because fewer people had to work.

For Melanie Decena, 37, the pilgrimage was her eighth. Despite the journey's length, starting at 6.30am and finishing about 11.30pm, she said it was not tiring.

"It is a commemoration of Christ," Ms Decena said. "It is part of being a Catholic. It is very different to Easter Sunday which is a day of celebration. This is about reflection."

mswan@thenational.ae