"My sentries will never be silent, by day or by night": fourth day of the International Congress of Commissaries of the Holy Land | Custodia Terrae Sanctae

"My sentries will never be silent, by day or by night": fourth day of the International Congress of Commissaries of the Holy Land

Jerusalem, Convent of St. Saviour, February 2, 2012

The Commissaries of the Holy Land attending the 3rd International Congress of Commissaries began their day, February 2nd, with the activities of the linguistic groups, continuing to work on the document regarding the pastoral and practical aspects of pilgrimages.

The morning continued with the presentation to the plenary meeting of a new and significant topic, which is also at the centre of the reflection of the Commissaries on this special occasion, namely Communication in the Custody of the Holy Land. This is a fundamental topic, the interest for which comes from the need to meet the expectations and needs of communication today, which require going beyond the traditional strategies and channels of communication and looking for and experimenting with original ways, instruments and contents to make the Holy Land known, appreciated and loved today.

The first communication on this was by Dr. Giuseppe Caffulli, Director of Edizioni Terra Santa (ETS), the Custody’s publishing company, based in Milan. Dr. Caffulli illustrated the initiatives developed in recent years and the current situation of ETS. In particular, he mentioned the relaunching of Eco di Terrasanta, the periodical linked in particular with the activities of the Commissariats and that plays a significant role in bringing the general public closer to the Holy Land, in the fund-raising campaigns for the Good Friday Collection, for the projects of the ATS - Associazione pro Terra Sancta, and the development of the magazine Terrasanta. In 2011, the magazine celebrated its 90th anniversary with a conference in Rome. It is the historical magazine of the Custody, with dossiers on various Biblical subjects and current affairs, also available today for its subscribers in electronic form. Dr. Caffulli then spoke of the creation in 2006, of the online magazine Terrasanta.net, conceived particularly for the huge audience of the Web, open to cultural and political subjects and, to date, with pages in Italian, English and Portuguese. Lastly, he presented the other projects of the publishers: the move to Milan of the editorial work for the institutional publications of the Studium Biblicum Franciscanum, the Golubovich Bio-bibliographical Collection and the publications of the Muski in Cairo; the opening of commercial channels in Italy and abroad; the extension of the publishing offer with new collections on the Holy Land, Christianity in the Middle East, Biblical archaeology, Judaism, Islam, inter-religious dialogue, spirituality and with other products; the production of the magazine The Holy Land Review in English; the internet site www.edizioniterrasanta.it, which also offers the possibility of purchasing books and magazines online; the opening of the Terra Santa Bookshop in Milan and the cultural activities at the Terra Santa Centre; the organization of exhibitions and cultural services; the press office, which handles communication on the activities of ETS, offering journalists and operators in communication news, information and photos on the Holy Land and on the Holy Places and supporting the initiatives connected with the Custody, including the campaigns for the Good Friday Collection; the new projects for 2012, including the sale of e-books and an online bookshop (www.libreriaterrasanta.it). Dr. Caffulli also announced that there is a book containing the proceedings of the Conference held in October, celebrating the 90th anniversary of the magazine Terrasanta fir all the Commissaries and that they can purchase all the material from the ETS catalog at half-price to help them in their task of publicizing everything that concerns the Holy Land and the Custody.

This was followed by the presentation of the magazine Terrasanta in Portuguese by Fra Jorge Hartmann, Commissary of the Holy Land in Brazil. This is a new project, still in progress, which should be completed by Easter 2012, when the first issue of the magazine is due to be published. There are great expectations, linked mainly to the huge Brazilian public who, in recent years, have been showing increasing interest in the Holy Land, but also its possible circulation in Portugal and the Portuguese-speaking countries in Africa. The idea of making the magazine and its 90 years of history known through a video that recalls the immense heritage of facts that have been told and are preserved in its pages is indeed interesting. The video, made by the Franciscan Media Center of the Custody, was screened at the end of Fra Hartmann’s presentation.

Fra Emilio Bárcena, Editor of the Spanish-language magazine Tierra Santa then spoke, presenting it in the light of a diachronic perspective, which highlighted the changes in the editorial aspects and contents over the decades since its foundation in 1921, situating them in the context of the wider changes of a social and cultural nature.

The last speaker of the morning was Marie-Armelle Beaulieu, managing editor of the French-language magazine La Terre Sainte, who offered, honestly and vivaciously, a precise picture of the state of the magazine, the peculiarities relating to the editorial side and contents, the changes and progress made in recent years, the close relations with the Commissariat of the Holy Land in France, the objectives to be fulfilled in the near future, including the development of the coordination and partnerships with the Commissariats in French-speaking countries and the production of contents for iPads and digital tablets.

In the afternoon, after lunch at the Convent of St. Saviour, the Commissaries continued their work with a presentation by Fra Jerzy Kraj, current Director of the CIC - Christian Information Center and responsible for the FMC - Franciscan Media Center. Fra Kraj spoke at length about the two institutions under his authority, starting with the CIC, which has been run by the Custody of the Holy Land since 1973, and which offers pilgrims, tourists and residents information services on the opening times of churches, the times of the liturgical celebrations and directions to the different sanctuaries; it provides the mass media, students and religious communities information on religious, scientific and cultural events and on Christian life in the Holy Land; it offers its premises for ecumenical meetings and for other religious and cultural initiatives; it organizes exhibitions and lectures with the participation of Christians of all confessions. The CIC also houses the FPO - Franciscan Pilgrims Office, which offers groups of pilgrims, priests and religious communities the service of booking Masses in the sanctuaries in the care of the Franciscans, Holy Hours in Gethsemane, solemn entrances into the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre, and the assignment of invitations for the Holy Mass on Christmas night in Bethlehem. Not far from the CIC there is the Franciscan Corner– Franciscan Bookstore, with a wide assortment of publications in different languages by the Franciscan Printing Press, the Edizioni Terra Santa and other publishers, as well as DVDs, CDs, books of photos, informative material in different languages and a variety of souvenirs. The FMC - Franciscan Media Center is the Franciscan Television and Multimedia Centre, which was inaugurated in 2008, and is based at the Terra Sancta College. Its objective is to “tell the Holy Land through images” speaking of current, religious and other events in these places and making them known to the whole world. The FMC intends, in the first place, to give a voice and visibility to the Mother Church of Jerusalem and to the local Christians and pays special attention to the Franciscan reality and the Franciscan sanctuaries, but it is also open to the cultural and religious events of the Orthodox and Protestant Churches and to those of the Jewish and Muslim worlds. It works with advanced technologies and a staff of expert professionals, capable of producing news programmes and reports, videos and documentaries, and providing live coverage of the celebrations at the Holy Places.

The afternoon continued with dialogue and discussion between the Commissaries and the Custos, Fra Pierbattista Pizzaballa, and with the linguistic groups working on the revision of the draft of the guide for the activities of the Commissaries. After the discussion of the results at a plenary meeting, the draft of the final document was presented to the designated Commission for approval.

Before dinner, there was the celebration of the Eucharist presided by the Apostolic Nuncio in the Holy Land, H. E. Mons. Antonio Franco, in the Church of St. Saviour. It was the Feast of the Presentation of Jesus to the Temple and also the Day of Consecrated Life. In his homily, Mons. Franco welcomed the Commissaries on behalf of the Holy Father and the Church and, in the name of the Holy Father and the Church, thanked them, for the bond of service that the Franciscan Order has succeeded in maintaining with the Holy Land over the centuries. This 3rd International Congress of Commissaries has added a new page to this precious history which unites the Franciscans to the Holy Land. The work of the friars of Francis in these places is truly marvelous: with the tradition of pilgrimages, the welcome given to pilgrims, the religious and socioeconomic service that the Custody performs with its countless works. The Commissaries are also part of this great project, with the task of encouraging the faithful to visit the Holy Land and to become true witnesses of the encounter with Christ in their families and in their countries. This extraordinary Franciscan commitment, the Nuncio concluded, well expresses the sense of the day dedicated to the consecrated life, which comes into being as an answer to the Lord’s call, as a personal and radical choice for Christ, which lasts a lifetime and which requires a complete involvement of the individual, up to the cross, of which each Christian and each consecrated person must bear witness on the path towards the glory of the resurrection.

In the evening, in the Immaculate Conception Hall, the Commissaries of the Holy Land, the friars of the Custody and many volunteers saw a presentation of a double DVD Tra i popoli di Dio: incontri oltre i muri, with the participation of Dr. Meir Margalit, founder of the ICAHD - Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions and Jerusalem City Councillor, and Dr. Chiara Tamagno, President of the non-profit making Ponte di Pace Association and who oversaw the work.

By Caterina Foppa Pedretti
Photos by Miriam Mezzera

Visit the website of the Congress.