Ninety participants from all over the world went to Jerusalem for the Fourth International Conference of the Commissioners of the Holy Land, which lasted from November 26 to December 2. “Pastoral care for pilgrimages: welcoming, memory, evangelization” is the central theme around which the relationships and study groups of the Franciscan friars and lay people present are developed, including issues, such as the actions of the Commissioners and the Commissariats.
Br. Marcelo Ariel Cichinelli, who is in charge of the Coordination Office of the Commissioners of the Holy Land and who introduced the theme, explained: “We would like the Order to have the friar who has the office of Commissioner to be confirmed as an agent of evangelization, as called by his vocation to organize, promote and accompany pilgrims in retracing the history of Salvation in this place.”
Present at the opening, H.E. Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, the Prefect for the Congregation for Eastern Churches, gave a speech focused on the relationship between the Universal Church and the Commissioners of the Holy Land. “The work of the Commissioners,” he said, “is fundamental. If they are not enthusiastic in recalling the importance that the Holy Land has for Christian life, we would lose an extraordinary amount of enthusiasm for the disciples of Christ.”
The Custos of the Holy Land, Fr. Francesco Patton, spoke about the role of the Commissioners of the Holy Land and of the Commissariats, underlining how deeply they are connected to the missionary vocation of the Franciscan Order. “When the Commissioners accompany the pilgrims, this is an experience of evangelization,” said the Custos. “Through this physical contact with Jesus’ Land, attention is paid to those who come to our shrines, and this memory allows us to make the Gospel experience and evangelization relevant. The Commissioner serves an experience of faith in these places.”
Br. Dobromir Jasztal, Custodial Vicar ended the morning with his speech, in which he illustrated the role of the Commissioners and Commissariats from the official point of view in the Constitutions and in the General Statutes of the Friars Minor and in the Particular and Special Statutes of the Custody of Holy Land. Br. Ramzi Sidawi, the Treasurer of the Custody of the Holy Land, then spoke about the custodial bursar and the relationship with the Commissioners, in order to answer any questions of an administrative nature, in full transparency.
The first day of work ended with Vespers at the Upper Room, a place deeply linked to Franciscan history since 1333, as the site of the first monastery and place where the Custos welcomed the pilgrims and washed their feet repeating the gesture of Jesus. “In this place, we ask for a deep capacity to live a journey of authentic communication and profound communion in order to carry out the service to which we are called," said Fr. Francesco Patton, the Custos of the Holy Land, in the brief commentary on the passage from Pentecost that was read during prayer. “We ask for the gift of mutual understanding, reconciliation and peace for this our Middle East and for all humanity. We ask that the Spirit lead us to an ever deeper internal renewal and to a commitment to life and to an ever more generous form of service, in the Church and for the good and salvation of the whole world.”