There has always been a close bond between Italy and the Holy Land which has been expressed in various ways throughout the centuries the Franciscan friars have been in the Holy Places and it continues to be expressed in ways that are always new.
The profound connection between the two places is not, as can easily be imagined, linked exclusively to a religious question. The relationship dates back to as early as 1225 when Frederick II proclaimed himself King of Jerusalem and was then crowned on 18th March 1229 in the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre against the wishes of the Pope, Gregory IX, after his second marriage to Maria of Montferrat, the daughter of John of Brienne, a descendant of the last king of Jerusalem, Baldwin. In 1333, one century later, the rulers of Naples, Robert of Anjou and Sancha of Majorca, succeeded in redeeming the Cenacle and other Shrines in the wake of a previous initiative of James II of Aragon, who had sent diplomatic missions to the sultan of Egypt with the hope of improving the situation of the local Christians and their churches, also asking for greater protection for pilgrims.
The real reason which the royal couple of Naples felt the need for such a gesture is probably to be attributed to the fact that Frederick II, marrying the legitimate descendant to the throne of Jerusalem, had established a royal line of continuity. It is following this line of descent that the gesture of Robert of Anjou and Sancha of Majorca can be situated, who undertook to recover the Holy Cenacle and other shrines that they believed to be part of their sovereignty.
It was on this history that goes from the Middle Ages to the present day that on Friday 14th June a day of study was held entitled “Naples and Jerusalem” at the Commissariat of Naples, organized by the General Commissariat of the Holy Land and by the Lieutenancy for Southern Tyrrhenian Italy of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem. Moderated by Dr Massimo Enrico Milone, Head of Rai (the Italian state broadcaster) in the Vatican City, there were a number of speakers, who followed the introduction by Fr. Sergio Galdi d'Aragona, Commissarof the Holy Land in Naples, continuing with Professor Dr Giovanni Battista Rossi, Lieutenant Knight of the Grand Cross, the Emeritus Archbishop of Nola H.E. Mons. Beniamino Depalma. The concluding contribution was given by Professor Antonio Milone, who teaches Medieval History at the Università Federico II in Naples and spoke about the pilgrimages in the Middle Ages.
Fr. Sergio explained the reasons for the meeting, concluding his introductory address. The Commissar of Naples explained the need “to be increasingly present in the community where we live, in the first place by sharing the different initiatives of the Custody and, in particular, by making the Custody the catalysing pole of all our initiatives: this is how we assume our identity as “Commissars”, as those to whom the duty of being an extension of the Custody of the Holy Land has been given, in those countries which for centuries have supported it and helped it.”