Reporter: Marcelino Benito
TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - As is tradition every year in Tucson, the faithful hiked up "A" Mountain to honor Good Friday. This year smaller crowds made the trek up Sentinel Peak. Organizers blame a lingering three year disagreement with the Catholic Church.
Organizers tell 9OS the walk is a spiritual journey for anyone who chooses to participate.
"They feel closer to God when they're going up the mountain," said David Herrera.
Herrera is the man behind Tucson's Good Friday Procession. At 93 years old, Herrera can't make the walk up the mountain anymore, but he continues to make sure the event goes on year after year. This was the 43rd year for the procession. He says it's an experience that stirs emotion.
"Sometimes they start crying, sometimes they start speaking in different tongues, they start singing," Herrera said.
The singing has quieted down over the last three years. Attendance has dwindled due to conflict with the Catholic Church. Organizers tell 9OS before the hiccup with the church attendance was upwards of 2,000 people. Now they feel fortunate to get 200.
"We did lose their support, but we will continue to do what we're doing with this event for 43 years, which is creating a great event for the people," Los Dorados spokesman, Antonio Pinarosantibanez said.
For the first time in the procession's history, a pastor not affiliated with the Catholic church led the hike up "A" Mountain.
"Our biggest thing here is we are nondenominational," Pinarosantibanez said. "Jesus died for all of us equally."
Step by step, the 16-foot cross flanked by believers made its way up Sentinel Peak.
"It overlooks all of Southern Arizona," Pinarosantibanez said. "We like to think of it as a Mount Sinai where people are making this climb."
The cross is never actually left alone. People will be guarding it overnight until Easter Sunday, when another Tucson tradition resumes. Crowds will gather atop "A" Mountain for a mass at sunrise. It begins at 6 a.m. All denominations are welcome.