St. Anthony: a large celebration in Jaffa, Tel Aviv

On Saturday 15th June, a few days after the Solemnity of St Anthony, a large celebration was held in the Franciscan parish of the migrants in Jaffa which is named after the saint from Padua.

More than 500 faithful took part in the procession which set off from the church of St Peter of Jaffa, and the Holy Mass that followed celebrated by Fr. Francesco Patton, Custos of the Holy Land. It was a festival of colors and sounds, led by the different communities present. The four Franciscan friars who live in this convent serve and assist these communities which are Arab, African, Filipino, Indian, Latin American and Polish.
As Fr. AgustìnPelayoFregoso, Mexican, the superior of the Convent and parish explains, “the Christian Arabs were the first to arrive in 1631 when the parish was founded; they settled here although the primary commitment of the brotherhood at the time was the welcome pilgrims arriving by sea.” Although from the historical point of view the Arabs were the first to be present, at the numerical level today the largest communities are the Indian and Filipino ones, followed by the Latin American and African ones.

The area of the parish of St Anthony is not based on a defined piece of land but on belonging to a community according to linguistic reasons or, as for many Christian Arabs of the new generation who no longer speak Arabic, simply to become integrated in a path of the Catholic faith. The activities of the parish are very popular: the Franciscan offer accompaniment to the sacraments and spiritual guidance; they also give concrete aid to the families who need it. As for the liturgical celebrations, the activities are also divided by linguistic community which often meet: "We have Masses in Konkani (an Indo-Aryan language spoken in India), in Tagalog (the commonest language in the Philippines), in English, French for the Africans, Spanish, Hebrew, Polish and the Mass of the Neocatechumenals," specifies Fr. Augustìn.

Even after the opening of the Parish named after Our Lady of Value, conceived for immigrants, many decided to stay and continue to come to the Parish of St Anthony. Although many live in areas outside Jaffa, preferring other parts of Tel Aviv, because of the high price of the property, many faithful easily find their origins and their culture there. 

The Parish offers many activities, for example, spiritual accompaniment for the diplomatic corps and the Catholic ambassadors which they cannot find in any other place in the city. Together with the particularities, there are also difficulties. First of all, Fr. Augustin reveals, is the difficulty in choosing the language for the catechism for the children: "The Arabs, for example, speak Arabic at home but no longer know how to read it because many of them study and speak in Hebrew. The same applies to the new generations of Filipinos, Africans, and Latin Americans. We have recently begun to transliterate the Arabic Our Father in Hebrew so that the Arabs can read it in their mother tongue."

Giovanni Malaspina