“Like one more character…”
St Josemaria Escriva, founder of Opus Dei, longed to visit the Holy Land during his lifetime, to follow in the footsteps of Jesus Christ. According to his successor, Ven. Alvaro del Portillo, “he had a great desire to go [there]; he prayed as one more character in the Gospel, he took note of the details, but since he had not been there, he created the landscape as best he could from what he had studied and from what he read.”
And, his desire for visiting the Holy Land also extended to all his spiritual children in Opus Dei and their families and friends whom he wished could have the opportunity in their lifetimes “to pray, kneel upon and kiss the soil which Jesus trod upon.”
“Saxum, yes you are”
In 1994, St Josemaria’s first successor, Bishop Alvaro del Portillo, made a special pilgrimage to the Holy Land. He undertook the pilgrimage in thanksgiving for his 80th birthday and the 50th anniversary of his priestly ordination. However, the pilgrimage resulted in a bittersweet memory. Bishop del Portillo celebrated his last Holy Mass in the Church of the Cenacle in Jerusalem and died the following day in Rome.
That same year, in memory of Bishop Alvaro del Portillo, the Prelature of Opus Dei, together with cooperators and friends, initiated the project to establish the Saxum Conference Center and Saxum Multimedia Resource Center in the Holy Land.
The name Saxum, which means ‘rock’ in Latin, pays homage to the nickname given to Bishop Alvaro del Portillo by St Josemaria for his great fidelity to and fortitude in his work, his vocation, and service to the Church.
In 1995, the Association for Cultural Interchange Inc. undertook the search of a site to develop the Saxum Project.