Franciscan monastery of the Holy Land hosts sixth annual benefit dinner honoring celebrated Peacemaker

An international peacemaker was honored as friends of the Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Land in Washington, DC, gathered for Mass and dinner on Saturday, November 15, 2014. Senator George W. Mitchell, who negotiated the historic Good Friday Agreement” ending decades of conflict in Northern Ireland, and who served as aU.S. special envoy in the Middle East, received the “Grato Animo” award from the Custos of the Holy Land. Fr. PierbattistaPizzaballa.

Senator Mitchell told participants at the dinner that the work of peacemaking requires perseverance. In Northern Ireland, a final resolution was in doubt just a few days before the final agreement was reached.

The Senator also made a plea for Americans to the hope their nation offers to those who come seeking a home. He told the story of a young man from Asia who became a citizen in a naturalization ceremony over which then-Judge Mitchell presided. “I came here because America is a place of opportunity,” the new American told Judge Mitchell. “He had only been a citizen for a few minutes,” Senator Mitchell recalled, “but he was able to sum up what it meant to be American in one sentence.” Mr. Mitchell concluded his remarks by quoting from the encyclical Pacem in Terris, by Pope St. John XIII.

Father Custos briefly updated the audience about the current situation in the Holy Land and Syria, where the friars minister. He noted that struggle in Syria is between elements in Islam, and is not targeting Christians directly. However, Christians are suffering as a result of the conflict. Many have had to leave their homes, and those who remain face hardships in finding the basic necessities for life. Christian symbols are banned from places of worship and homes.

Within the Holy Land, recent days have seen renewed conflict between Israelis and Palestinians in and around Jerusalem. Although the future remains uncertain, Father Custos asserted that “the Franciscans are there today and will be there in the future.”

As part of the program, Dr. Ronan Tynan, celebrated Irish tenor, brought his musical talents to the evening, highlighting St. Francis, peacemaking, and offering a prayer for peace in song.

Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, retired Archbishop of Washington, DC, gave the invocation for the dinner and shared stories of Pope Francis.

Earlier, at the Mass, Auxiliary Bishop Dennis Madden of Baltimore (who was assisted by Auxiliary Bishop Martin Holley of Washington, DC, Father Custos, and priests of the Monastery), spoke of the need for Christians to share their talents in the work of spreading the Gospel.

Greg Friedman ofm, Washington

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