A source of hope and gratitude: the first result of the 3rd International Conference of the Commissaries of the Holy Land | Custodia Terrae Sanctae

A source of hope and gratitude: the first result of the 3rd International Conference of the Commissaries of the Holy Land

Jerusalem, 18th February 2012

The 3rd International Conference of the Commissaries of the Holy Land, held in Jerusalem from 30th January to 4th February, came to an end a few days ago. It was an important and challenging event which intensely involved the Custody, setting two objectives at the same time: efficiency and productivity on a practical level, with a view to achieving the programmatic results on the agenda; the creation of a fraternal environment, where to welcome the participants and offer them the chance to have a human and spiritual experience of high value.

From a first evaluation of the Conference, through the observations and comments from the Commissaries during the meeting and immediately afterwards, two precise indications already emerge: the appreciation for the care and efficiency of the organization, which guaranteed the success of the work and allowed the participants to really feel they were an active part of the initiative; the recognition of the importance of the fraternal experience, of the caring welcome that brings about familiarity, sharing a path that is rich on both the human and cultural levels with brothers from different parts of the world, enlightened and guided by the same Franciscan spirit.

The group excursions, on 6th and 8th February, organized by Brother Pietro Kaswalder, who teaches at the Studium Biblicum Franciscanum, also contributed to building up this positive and open atmosphere. The Commissaries, together with many guests and friends, made many interesting visits, from Jacob’s Well to Mount Garizim, from Beit Jibrin to Beer Sheva, from Tel Aviv to Ramleh and Abu Gosh. These excursions offered an opportunity to rediscover forgotten corners of the Holy Land, or to learn about and appreciate little known places, becoming invaluable moments to spend time freely together and cultivate friendly relations. This is because the Conference, as already mentioned, also had the intention of being a tool to build up a network of significant relations, to bring together Commissaries who speak different languages and belong to different cultures, developing contacts, exchanges and collaboration that knowing one another at a distance, through the Internet, does not allow.

After the success of the initiative, also acknowledged by the Minister General of the Order, Brother José Rodriguez Carballo, and by the Custos of the Holy Land, Brother Pierbattista Pizzaballa, the great commitment to carry on the work on the contents that the Conference brought to the attention of all the participants, now begins. In particular, writing the Vademecum, or the working guide for the activity of the Commissaries, will still need thought and the active contribution of all. On the other hand, the very busy programme of the days of the Conference opened up many questions and raised significant problems and it will still take great dedication and spirit of collaboration to find their solutions. Precisely for this purpose, at the end of the Conference, a schedule of work was prepared, the collection of available material was started and the people of references with tasks of coordination and promotion were identified so that the expected results can be reached by the end of 2012, also taking into account the needs and the time necessary for the intermediate revision and for approval by the designated Commissions, the government of the Custody and the General Government.

"This 3rd International Conference opens up a great hope for us,” says Brother Giorgio Vigna, in charge of the Coordination and Liaison Office of the Commissaries of the Holy Land. "The result of this event, which was so important and eagerly awaited, is overall very positive and will be a real starting point to boost the activity of the Commissariats and to create a profitable network of collaboration between the Commissaries, the Dioceses the Christian world and the Custody. We hope that the new Coordination office that is based in Jerusalem and came into being a few months ago, in July 2011, can really make a valid contribution in this direction. At the Conference, all the Commissaries and collaborators present were able to meet the person who concretely deals with this service, they were able to get to know his way of working and discover the potential and opportunity of this new Office. I sincerely hope that communication and collaboration between the Commissariats and the Custody can grow and become deeper also thanks to the work that the Coordination Office has already started doing and which it intends to promote further. I also hope that this next International Conference, under the impetus of the results achieved on this occasion and the activity of coordination of the Commissariats that the relevant Office will be implementing, can be organized in 3-4 years, so as to ensure continuity and support to the invaluable work undertaken today."

"Lastly,” concluded Brother Vigna with sincere emotion – I wish to express my personal gratitude first of all to the Minister General and to the Custos, for the confidence they had in me for the organization of this significant appointment and the team of people who made a decisive contribution, working fruitfully for the success of the intense days of the Conference. My thought of gratitude go not only to the Commissaries who met in Jerusalem and for the benefit of whom everything was planned and implemented, but also to the group that looked after the coordination of the initiative with me, namely Brother Silvio De La Fuente, the Custody Secretary, Brother Marcelo Cichinelli and Mrs Doni Ferrari. I also wish to mention the larger team of about 12-14 people who collaborated in different fundamental sectors, working competently and without worrying about time and difficulties."

It has been a fundamental opportunity to reflect together on the great value of the Holy Land and to grow in the love and service for it and a real starting point to pout the vocation of the Franciscan Custody back in the centre, to learn about its extraordinary missionary work, to increasingly involve the Commissaries in a story of mutual trust, active collaboration and shared commitment so that the Holy Land continues to be the spiritual centre that illuminates the life of every Christian.

By Caterina Foppa Pedretti