Love the Holy Land, putting Jesus at the centre of everything: The final day of the 3rd International Congress of Commissaries of the Holy Land | Custodia Terrae Sanctae

Love the Holy Land, putting Jesus at the centre of everything: The final day of the 3rd International Congress of Commissaries of the Holy Land

Jerusalem, Convent of St. Saviour, February 4, 2012

The 3rd International Congress of Commissaries of the Holy Land officially closed on the morning of Saturday, February 4. The last work session was the presentation, by the designated Commissary, of the final text of the guide for the Commissaries’ work and the document, after having been approved by the Discretorium, was handed over to the Minister General of the Order. On this occasion, there was also the presentation of the conclusive document of the works of the Congress, which had also been drawn up by a special committee and which contained the points taken as commitments by the parties involved, the Custody and the Commissaries.

After the brief summary by Fra Giorgio Vigna, in charge of the Commissariats Liaison Office and Secretary of the Congress, the Minister General of the Order, Fra José Rodriguez Carballo, gave his closing speech, in the form of a message to the Commissaries, the Custody of the Holy Land and to the Franciscan Order. In particularly intense words, the Minister General gave the Commissaries a series of recommendations, like Ten Commandments, for a programme to perform their delicate and precious mission. In particular, and before anything else, he urged the Commissaries to love Jesus and the Word of God and to take the Gospel as a Rule of life, thus finding the authentic way and meaning of love for the Holy Land, which is offered to the faithful as the Fifth Gospel. With this sensitivity kindled in the heart, the Custody cannot fail to be at the centre of the activity of the Commissaries, who have the task of supporting it and making the admirable work of the Franciscans in the Middle East and for the benefit of the Holy Places, of the “living stones” of the Mother Church of Jerusalem, of pilgrims, of ecumenical and inter-religious openness, of the cultural, scientific and educational development of the region - known everywhere. From this perspective, the Commissaries must take particular care in organizing and animating pilgrimages, the main aim of which is the encounter with Christ in His Land and reading the Holy Scriptures in situ, thus becoming an opportunity for new evangelization, rediscovery of the faith and meeting diversity. For this reason, the Commissaries must adequately update their grounding in the Biblical, archaeological and theological fields, so that the pilgrimage becomes an experience of faith, science and culture. Fra Carballo then invited the Commissaries to act as true “bridges” that build up effective relations between the local Churches and Bishops and the Mother Church of Jerusalem: presenting the needs of the Christian communities in the Holy Land and urging everyone to support them, giving them hope for their future; cultivating meaningful relations with the Custody through periodic visits and collaborating with the Custody’s institutions so that vocations for the Holy Land can flourish; and looking after relations with the Provincial Minister and with their brothers in the Province, involving them in the service to the Custody and in the activity of the Commissariats. In everything, Fra Carballo concluded, the Franciscan style must emerge, and it must permeate relations, communication, economic management and the promotion of vocations.
The Minister General then addressed short message to the Custody, hoping that it can continue its extraordinary commitment in the Holy Land, bearing witness to the Gospel, serving all those who live in these places without any distinction and promoting communication with all those who love and are interested in the Holy Land and, above all, with the Commissaries, actively involving them in the life and the service of the Custody, in the activities of formation and in the management of the economic contributions. Lastly, Fra Carballo appealed to the Order, which is responsible to the Holy See for the custody of the Holy Places, so that it is increasingly aware of the importance of the Holy Land, the pearl of the Franciscan missions, and sends suitable and motivated brothers to serve it in the best way possible.

In the homily during the 10 o’clock Mass, at the Church of St. Saviour, the Minister General, who presided at the celebration, then returned to the centrality of the person of Jesus and the importance of the encounter with Him. Beginning from an attitude of St. John the Baptist, who points to Jesus as “the Lamb of God” (John 1,36) and thus enlightens his disciples, making them aware of who the Messiah to be followed was, Fra Carballo highlighted the deep sense of mission of the Custody and of the Commissaries, who come into close contact with the many pilgrims who visit the Holy Land. "What we have to seek,” said the Minister General, “is that the pilgrims meet Jesus, love him and follow him, according to the vocation to which they have been called. [...] Our vocation and mission is that of being witnesses of Christ, taking the Lord Jesus to our brothers by our life and our word. This is your great mission, dear brothers of the beloved Custody of the Holy Land; this is your mission, dear Commissaries; to encourage the faith of the pilgrims in the Chosen One of the Father, preparing all hearts to the personal encounter with Jesus, so that everyone follows His person.” Because, like the disciples of the Baptist who approached Jesus, every true disciple is a beggar for meaning, a man on a path, constantly searching, to whom the Lord, who calls him to follow him, says: "Come and see." (John 1,38-39.46). The encounter with Christ is so moving and extraordinary that it is engraved in the heart, it permeates the whole of personal existence and makes everyone want to announce the joy of this meeting to everyone, to tell what they have seen and heard, to restore the overabundance of the gift of the Gospel, to suggest to everyone "Come and see."

During the liturgical celebration, in a climate of sincere fraternity and joy, the Minister General of the Order, together with the Custos, Fra Pierbattista Pizzaballa, gave each of the participants of the Congress, calling them one by one to the great altar, a flag with the Cross of the Holy Land, the symbol of the Franciscan Custody and a certificate of participation in the Congress. The flag showed, on a white ground, a Greek cross in red and with four smaller crosses in each quadrant. The certificate, personalized with the name of each participant, is embossed with the logos of the Franciscan Order, Ordo Fratrum Minorum, of the Franciscan Custody of the Holy land and of the 3rd International Congres of Commissaries of the Holy Land - 2012.

At the end of the Holy Mass, before sharing the festive lunch at the Convent of St. Saviour, everyone was invited to the concert offered by the TAU Band of Akko in the Immaculate Conception Hall, introduced and accompanied by its founder, Fra Quirico Calella. Fra Quirico, who very enthusiastically animates the Latin Church of St. John the Baptist in Akko and is headmaster of the local school of the Custody of the Holy Land, founded the TAU Music Centre and the TAU Band about two years ago: they are gradually making a name for themselves at both local and international level thanks to the commitment, dedication and professionalism of many. The TAU Band, conducted by the Belarus maestro Borsi Ekelchik, includes Jewish, Christian and Muslim children between 11 and 15 who play together with talent and passion. On this occasion, too, as on many others, the concert of the TAU Band, which makes music the common ground of encounter of the different souls that live in the Holy Land, represented a particularly great and meaningful moment of that culture of peace that is gradually taking shape in this very tormented land..

By Caterina Foppa Pedretti
Photos by Miriam Mezzera and Marie-Armelle Beaulieu

Visit the website of the Congress.