A prize for the Custody of the Holy Land: Fr. Patton in Spain, from Ceuta to Caravaca

A new recognition from Spain: The Convivencia Ciudad Autónoma de Ceuta prize was awarded to the Friars Minor of the Custody. The autonomous city of Ceuta, a Spanish territory on the Northern coast of Morocco, wished to award the Custody for its “social work benefitting peace and coexistence, for the promotion of tolerance, reconciliation, dialogue among different cultures, for favoring peace and cultural enrichment and for being a connection between religions.” The prize began in 1998 with the objective of promoting the values of peaceful multicultural coexistence among Muslims, Christians, Jews and Hindus, who have been present in the city for countless years. Having arrived in Ceuta for the September 6 awards ceremony, the Custos of the Holy Land, Fr. Francesco Patton, wished to begin his speech with the Franciscan greeting “May the Lord give you peace.” After expressing his gratitude for being selected for the prize, he talked about the activities carried out by the Custody every day at the shrines, in the schools and in the parishes. “I would like to ask you to remember our friars and the entire population affected by war, violence and terrorism, in your prayers,” said Fr. Patton.

On September 8, the Custos of the Holy Land visited a Hindu temple, a synagogue and the Muey el Medhi Mosque, as a tangible sign of dialogue.
Algeciras, near Gibraltar, was his second stop, and he arrived there by boat on September 9, crossing the strip of the Mediterranean Sea that separates Morocco from Spain. Going by car from the city of Caravaca de la Cruz, to the autonomous community of Murcia, the Custos was invited to preside over a solemn mass at the city's shrine. “After meeting with the mayor, I visited the important places in Caravaca and then I celebrated Sunday mass at the shrine,” said Fr. Francesco Patton. “The Brotherhood of the True Cross, comprised of more than 5,000 friars who manage the shrine, was present.”

A few years ago, the Brotherhood of the True Cross had asked the Custody for a relic of the true cross, besides the one that was already present in the shrine. That is how the relationship between the Custody of the Holy Land and Caravaca became even stronger. Every seven years, an indulgence is celebrated in Caravaca, and Fr. Patton was invited on the occasion of this jubilee. “The shrine is significant because it is linked to the apparition of the True Cross at a time in which Ceuta was governed by Muslims,” said the Custos of the Holy Land.

In his homily, Fr. Patton focused on three aspects: Jesus' cross as a mystery that is seemingly contradictory of rising through debasement: its discovery and the redeeming meaning that the cross has for our lives and for all of humanity and the participation in the feast without experiencing it ritualistically. The church was packed with faithful who listened to the Custos' words.

“I invited [those listening] to promote pilgrimages to the Holy Land and to help bring awareness about the Custody's Spanish-language magazine,” said Fr. Patton. May the Holy Land come to Spain, to the world and may it continue to speak to everyone.”

Beatrice Guarrera