From 8 to 15 January, a delegation of Italian-speaking Commissaries of the Holy Land completed a mission in Syria, to get to know directly the expression and the action of the Custody of the Holy Land in this country, also supported through the Commissariats themselves.
“The idea,” fra Matteo Brena, President of the Conference of Italian-speaking Commissaries of the Holy Land and Commissary of Tuscany, “came into being at the last convention of the Italian-speaking commissaries of the Holy Land and was planned for October 2023.” The outbreak of the war advised postponing the journey. This also entailed a reduction in the number of participants from the initial 11 to six: in addition to fra Matteo, fra Adriano Contran, delegate of the Commissariat of Northern Italy, fra Sergio Galdi, commissary of Naples, fra Valentino Benedetto Ghiglia, vice commissary of Tuscany, fra Nicola Lippo, commissary of Sicily and fra Stefano Tondelli, commissary of Umbria were also present.
The missions of the Custody
The commissaries visited the Franciscan communities of Damascus, Aleppo and Latakia, while it was not possible to reach the communities in the Valley of the Orontes. “We met our Franciscan brothers, who presented to us the Christian communities and their missions, from pastoral care to the projects for aid for the poorest,” says fra Matteo. “These include the “Franciscan care centre” of Aleppo, where the Franciscans have a project of art therapy. “I was struck by the light in the eyes of the children as they told me their dreams. It is so important to help children keep on dreaming in a context of misery and poverty!”
For him it was his third visit to Syria since 2017: “Over the years I have seen the situation get worse from the economic point of view. At the same time, I have seen the communion between our brothers flourish and I have found a missionary Christian community for the poorest, even in the Muslim world. This is the testimony of a Christianity that is not closed up on itself, but leavening for a wider situation.” For fra Valentino, on the other hand, it was his first time in Syria and a trip he had been looking forward to for a long time: “It was an opportunity that confirmed me in my faith: I saw a population that for centuries and even today. despite the efforts, the difficulty, the pain and great suffering, has lived faithful to Jesus. They are living stones, on whom the Franciscan community is intelligently building up a living Church.”
The commissaries of the Holy Land returned to Italy with the desire to support the work of the Custody in Syria. The hypotheses presented include “solidarity trips”, as soon as the situation allows, “to make the Christian community in Syria and its heritage of history, art and spirituality, known” and above all “to connect the communities with one another,” helping the Syrian communities feel they are part of a larger communion.” The commissaries will continue to visit the communities of the Custody in the various countries, to see these situations at first-hand and to look for new ways to support the work of the Custody and the Christians of the Holy Land.