At the end of the Christmas period, there is still time to celebrate a birthday: the Studium Biblicum Franciscanum (SBF), the school of Holy Scripture and biblical archaeology of the Custody of the Holy Land, is one hundred years old.
Some lecturers and students from the Studium Biblicum and some Franciscan friars from the convent of the Flagellation, where the Studium is based, celebrated this birthday with a moment of remembrance and prayer on the evening on 7 January, the same day on which the Studium was inaugurated. A wider commemoration will be held in Rome on 15 and 16 January in Rome, including an audience with the Pope and a conference at the Pontificia Università Antonianum in Rome, of which the Studium today is one of the Faculties.
A gift for the Custody
In his “Diary of the Holy Land”, fra Ferdinando Diotallevi, Custos of the Holy Land at the time of the inauguration of the Studium and its strong supporter, wrote this on the date of 7 January 1924: “Having established the programme, it was decided that the Studium would open in the hospice of the Flagellation and the inauguration was fixed for today at three in the afternoon. The fathers of the Discretorium and many other fathers and the clergy of St Saviour attended. The Father Custos read the opening speech, followed by the other speech by the Father Lector Gaudenzio Orfali (...). The opening of this school meets a real need of the Custody.”
After one hundred years, “we are here to give thanks for this gift of God,” said the Guardian of the Convent of the Flagellation, fra Giuseppe Gaffurini, opening the community moment on 7 January. “If the Custody has always been considered the pearl of the missions of the Order of Friars Minor, we can consider the Studium one of the singular expressions of the Custody that nourishes it and cares for it.”
A story that continues
Prof. Elisa Chiorrini, recently elected to the office of Secretary of the SBF and fra Giovanni Claudio Bottini, emeritus professor and archivist of the SBF both gave brief addresses. The latter offered some passages from the opening speech of the SBF pronounced by the then Custos Diotallevi (the original is still in the archive of the SBF today) and recalled some of the figures who over the years contributed to building up and making known the Studium, including two Blesseds - fra Martín Lozano Tello and fra Gabriele Allegra – and the Custos Frediano Giannini who, as early as 1901, had already tried to open the school, but the time was not yet right. Many other outstanding figures were named by fra Bottini, close to “many other humble workers of the vine.”
With the help of God and with a little goodwill, we have finally reached this long-awaited day that marks not only an epoch in the history of the Custody of the Holy Land but a date to be remembered because a void is filled that implored by many and felt by all (...). The new school will fulfil its task if it does not only meet arid speculations, but adds the spirit of prayer, because from it and only for it, as our seraphic doctor St Bonaventure teaches us, we will be able to reach an understanding of the most sublime truths.
(from the Inauguration Speech of the SBF by the Custos of the Holy Land, fra Ferdinando Diotallevi, 7 January 1924)
Study and prayer
The short commemorative speeches were followed by the community prayer of Vespers, presided over by fra Rosario Pierri, Dean of the Studium Biblicum. After the reading, he briefly took the floor to underline the new method introduced by the SBF, which still has an “original approach to the Scripture” today, in an exegesis which is “very close to the text.”
Fra Pierri also highlighted the bond between biblical studies and evangelization: “We do not only work for Academia, but for the poor people, for the pilgrims who come to the Holy Land, to break down the Word for them and take them the message of love that God wanted to convey to us through the Holy Scripture.”
After the appointment in church, there was a convivial moment for all those present. “Going back over the start of the marvel He has performed, we thank the Lord and pray that He fulfils what He started,” said the Guardian of the convent.