On Saturday, July 15, the Custodial Vicar, Father Artemio Vitores, celebrated the Mass of the Feast of the Consecration of the Basilica of the Resurrection in the presence of the friars of the Custody of the Holy Land, local faithful, and pilgrims.
The crusaders chose July 15, 1149, to have the basilica consecrated. This was a symbolic date, because it also commemorated the fiftieth anniversary of their victorious entry into Jerusalem (July 15, 1099). Although Constantine had built a church over the tomb of Christ, which until then had been buried under the pagan temple of Hadrian, when the crusaders entered the Holy City they found nothing but ruins. The church, which had escaped destruction when the city was taken by the Moslems in 638, fell victim to the madness of Sultan al-Hakim who had it razed to the ground in 1006. The reconstruction took place between 1042 and 1048 under the Byzantine emperor Constantine IX monomachos, but the crusaders quickly found it too small to meet the needs of the growing numbers of pilgrims who arrived in the city.
In the course of 50 years, then, the building was transformed into a larger Roman church with a campanile, a dome covering the compound and a cloister for the canons. Today, people accustomed to the starkness of European Roman art, may not immediately see it a jewel of this architectural period, but connoisseurs looking beyond the decorations and the more recent additions, and taking into account the separation of the different Christian denominations, are able to identify its characteristics.
The Custody of the Holy Land continues its history today, but with a renewed spirit. The sons of Saint Francis are not the descendants of the crusaders, but the spiritual heirs of the Little Poor Man of Assisi who came here to the Holy Land to encounter all of his Jewish, Christian, and Muslim brothers. Today, celebrating the consecration of this church so dear to the heart of Christians, as Father Artemio stressed in his homily, is to celebrate Christ himself, his resurrection and his love offered to all mankind.
The universal Church celebrates Saint Bonaventure, doctor of the Church, today. The feast day of this holy Franciscan is postponed in the Custody of the Holy Land to July 17, July 16 being the feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. As Our Lady of Mount Carmel grants her protection to all who appeal to her, the Franciscans of the Holy Land will not omit invoking her intercession in praying for peace in the Holy Land and throughout the region.