Following the Lion | Custodia Terrae Sanctae

Following the Lion

Opening of the Exposition

1. The Franciscans in the Holy Land: identity and mission of the Custody
Drawn by love of the poor and crucified Christ, our founder, Saint Francis of Assisi, went to the Middle East in the beginning of the 13th century, in order to “touch” the places which, up to our day, offer an irreplaceable testimony of God’s revelation and love for the human person.
During his pilgrimage, and despite the Crusades, Saint Francis encountered and dialogued with the sultan, Melek al-Kamel, who was governing the Holy Land at the time.
It was a peaceful encounter which marked the beginning of the Franciscans’ presence in the Holy Land and also influenced the way in which we have been present in the course of the centuries until today.
The friars have not only been the “guardians” of the stones and of the places in order to preserve their value, but their mission has also been to make them living stones, so that they speak to the heart and to the mind of all those who set off on a pilgrimage in the Holy Land, so they may see the “simple stones” as “beloved stones” through their faith.
The sons of Francis of Assisi – in the words of John Paul II – have been able to interpret “in a genuinely evangelical way that legitimate desire to look after the places of our Christian roots.”
2. The universality of Jerusalem: importance of the Christian identity
Jerusalem, as we know, is a city with a Universal Vocation. According to our view we need to insist upon the necessity to preserve the Christian character of the city of Jerusalem as one of the constitutive elements of its universal configuration.
By universal configuration, we mean the reality in which Jews, Muslims and Christians, for centuries, live and share spaces and sometimes the same traditions; the reality in which all the different communities express their traditions and historical narratives, one close or connected to another. Universal means: open to the world, but also that in itself contains the lives of the world. These lives belong one to another. Jerusalem would lose its universality, if it does not maintain visible and public all the elements of such character, including the Christian character.
3. The relationships with the local community and with the international one
We have the chance of witnessing how strong the bonds between this City and the Christian traditions are, locally and internationally, from the first centuries till the present day.
This is something we want to share with everybody, to let it be known the richness of the bonds and how they have been shaping the Christian identity of Jerusalem.
Really Jerusalem has been open to the world, but also has contained in itself the lives of the world.
4. Thanks

I want to thank fr. Stéphane, the friar responsible for the Cultural Heritage of the Custody, fr. Lionel, the director of the General Library and fr. Sergey, the responsible for the Historical Archive for their support in this and every cultural initiatives. I want to also thank ATS, that was entrusted by the Custody to manage the project of the Terra Sancta Museum, of which this exhibition is an outcome, and to all those who contributed and sponsored the project, allowing us to go ahead with it.
I want to thank also Ms. Sara Cibin curator of the exhibition, Ms. Stefania Peluso Archeologist and Ms. Andreina Contessa, chief curator at the U. Nahon Museum of Italian Jewish Art; without their contribution this event would not be realized.
A special thanks and blessings to all of you who with your presence here tonight are showing your sympathy and support for our efforts.