JERUSALEM -- Twenty-four of the Chilean miners rescued after more than two months trapped under ground began their eight-day tour of Israel with a visit to Jerusalem's Old City.
The Chilean miners and their families were followed by a gaggle of press from around the world as they began the week-long pilgrimage.
Jose Henriquez, one of the miners, said the opportunity to visit the Holy Land was a "blessing from God."
In the Footsteps of Jesus
The trip was the miners' first time visiting Jerusalem and the first opportunity to walk in the footsteps of Jesus on the Via Dolorosa, which is Latin for "Way of Grief or Way of Suffering."
They followed the traditional stations of the cross, tracing the steps Jesus took to Calvary. The miners and their families looked like any ordinary tour group. They took pictures, listened to their tour guide, experienced the local color, and walked through the narrow alleys by many souvenir shops.
But these miners aren't ordinary tourists. They captured the imagination and hearts of people worldwide with their resilience and dramatic rescue. Henrequez played a pivotal role by leading his fellow miners in prayer during their ordeal and now serves as their spokesman.
"God has taken this accident which was terrible and through prayers from people around the world were praying for us. He took this and he's used it for something good. He's turned it around," he told CBN News.
Henrequez says 20 of the miners accepted Jesus Christ as their savior as a result of the ordeal. But what does it feel like to be trapped underground and now be in Jerusalem?
"It is a great blessing to be here. The God who rescued us from the bowels of the earth is the God who has brought us here. He is the God of mercy and we're so thankful," he said.
Miners Visit Ancient Church
Father Fergus Clarke welcomed the miners to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, the site where many believe Jesus was crucified, died and rose again.
"It's a great pleasure to be able to welcome them as we would welcome any people who would come here. But there's a special meaning because of their trauma and their rescue," Clarke told CBN News. "I think it touched everybody in the world and now we can try and relate that to the greater rescue as I said of our rescue from sin and death and resurrection of Jesus in this place."
Prayers at the Western Wall
The miners came to the Holy Land through an invitation by Israel's Ministry of Tourism.
"People recognize and we tell it to the whole world that the Holy Land, that Israel is a place to come and pray for God -- that if you want to say, 'Thank you God,' this is the place to do it." " Rafi Ben Hur, the deputy general of Israel's Ministry of Tourism, said.
The miners did that when they came to the Western Wall and offered prayers of thanksgiving.
The miner who attracted much of the media attention was Richard Villaroel, the 28th miner rescued. His wife Dana gave birth to their son Richard just six days after his rescue.
"It's a gift from God that I'm here today," he said.