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2012
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"Uniquely and irrevocably attached to the Holy Land": Solemn Entry of the Minister General of the Order to the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre

Jerusalem, 2 May, 2012

In the afternoon of Wednesday 2 May, the Franciscan Friars of the Custody of the Holy Land, led by the Custodial Vicar, Brother Artemio Vitores, left Saint Saviour’s Monastery in procession with the kawas on their way to the Jaffa Gate in the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem at 5:40 p.m. to meet the Minister General of the Order, Brother José Rodriguez Carballo, and the members of the General Definitory OFM, who have been visiting the Holy Places during their itinerant retreat between 28 April and 8 May, 2012. Receiving Brother Carballo, together with the Franciscan family, were representatives of the Orthodox Church of Jerusalem, the secretary of His Excellency Mgr. Antonio Franco, the Apostolic Nuncio in Israel and Cyprus and Apostolic Delegate in Jerusalem and Palestine, and officers of the local Israeli police force. The Minister General was joined by his Vicar, Brother Michael Perry, and received the welcome and greetings of the Custodial Vicar and the other authorities present and the warm welcome of the faithful and pilgrims who had gathered for the occasion at Jaffa Gate. After the arrival of the General Definitory, the cortège of friars and representatives of the various Christian communities and the faithful passed in procession through the narrow roads of the Old City, soon arriving at the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre. Here, before the massive doors to the Sanctuary, the Arab Muslim family who hold the keys to the Holy Place also greeted the Minister General, who then completed his solemn entry into the Basilica.

After venerating the Stone of Unction, Brother Carballo was welcomed by the Custos of the Holy Land, Brother Pierbattista Pizzaballa, in the midst of a crowd of friars and the faithful intoning the hymn Salve Sancte Pater. To celebrate the solemn entry, the Te Deum was then chanted. At this point, Father Custos addressed a few warm words of welcome to the Minister General, expressing joy at being able to welcome him in the name of the Church and the Order of Friars Minor into this most sacred and precious site, the sanctuary dearest to Franciscans who for many centuries, together with the Orthodox brothers, have cared for and protected it. It is in this place, where they continue to receive pilgrims from the world over, that we can truly live the extraordinary experience of the announcement of the resurrection: “He is not here! He has been raised, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay” (Mt 28:6), and it is here in this Holy Land, tormented by so much pain and division, that the Franciscans, emphasized Brother Pizzaballa, bear witness to the resurrection and to life, to the splendid message of God who chose to enter human history, to make himself close to us, to share everything, to deliver himself to man, to the point of taking on our misery and raising it up with his resurrection. And so, the Custos concluded, “this place is an integral part of our history, the history of the Friars Minor, who since their foundation have been uniquely and irrevocably attached to the Holy Land and to the Holy Places of our Redemption as an integral part of the Franciscan charism, which holds at its heart the Incarnation.” The Minister General, who as protector of the Order is the primary protector of this precious site to which the Church entrusted the Holy Places, replied to Brother Pizzaballa’s words, thanking the friars for their continuous engagement in this exceptional mission in the land of Jesus and for their many pastoral, social, educational and welfare activities, mentioning in particular welcoming the pilgrims who are constantly visiting these places so dear to all Christianity. Finally, Brother Carballo imparted the Solemn Benediction to all present before of the Aedicule of the Holy Sepulchre.

At the end of the ceremony, the Minister General, Custos of the Holy Land, Custodial Vicar and friars returned in procession to Saint Saviour’s Monastery through the streets and neighborhoods of the Old City of Jerusalem.

Text by Caterina Foppa Pedretti
Photos by Adelmo Vasquez

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