The new Bethlehem Mosaic Center has opened

The Bethlehem Mosaic Center has officially opened. The center, a result of the collaboration between the Custody’s NGO, ATS Pro Terra Sancta, and the Mosaic Center association, officially opened its doors on May 26 in the presence of the Custos, Fr. Francesco Patton, President of the ATS. The goal of this new center is to offer local youth a place to put their skills into practice and to create new jobs. Like what is already happening in Jericho, in Bethlehem there will also be mosaic courses offered and the focus will be on preserving the art of mosaics, restoring ancient pieces and encouraging people to visit the center.

“After Ramadan, the first Mosaic course will start, aimed at girls and boys from the Bethlehem community,” explained Melania of ATS, coordinator of the New Mosaicists for Bethlehem project. “We also tried to involve those who had participated in a course previously.” In fact, in 2016, one was held in Bethlehem, funded by the CEI (the Italian Bishops’ Conference). The Bethlehem Mosaic Center course will last three months and, after a break, it will resume with the second-level course. The course will be open to all, Christians and Muslims, thus fostering further opportunities for dialogue and coming together.

The opening event was attended by employees, volunteers and locals, together with the various partners who financially supported the project, such as the Autonomous Province of Trento (Italy).
Vincenzo Bellomo, head of the ATS project for Bethlehem, explained that the center was created to develop various aspects, such as “preserving the beauty of the old city [and] promoting new job opportunities for locals.” After thanking the partners, Vincenzo Bellomo explained that 2018 is a special year, as the 10-year anniversary of Fr. Michele Piccirillo’s death. Fr. Piccirillo was a Franciscan friar and one of the founders of the ATS, who helped to inspire the idea of the Mosaic Center. 2018 also marks the eighth centenary since the meeting between St. Francis of Assisi and the Sultan in Damietta. “Through this project we are in a way honoring and carrying on this dialogue,” said Bellomo.

Among the institutional figures present were the mayor of Bethlehem, Anton Salman, and the Consul General of Italy in Jerusalem, Fabio Sokolowicz. The mayor took the floor recalling the history of the property of those places and thanked the Custody of the Holy Land for allowing the new center to be established there. The Consul General of Italy praised the teamwork among the different associations that brought the project to life and he underlined the positive contribution that it can have in regards to job creation and promoting the local culture.

“I would like to express my thanks to everyone for being here today and for supporting the Bethlehem Mosaic Center,” said the Custos of the Holy Land. Fr. Patton spoke of three reasons why the center is so important: “The first reason is connected with the history of this city. The mosaics are part of this city’s ancient tradition. This Mosaic Center represents a deep connection between Bethlehem and its roots.” Secondly, the Custos explained that it is very important to know the way to beauty and quoted John Paul II to make his point. “The third reason that this center is important is that mosaics are the symbol of living together in harmony,” concluded Fr. Patton. “The mosaics are an extraordinary symbol of what we are called to be here and everywhere in the world: a society in which everyone can live with their own culture and identity, painting the splendid mosaic of coexistence and union, in harmony and peace, together.”

Beatrice Guarrera

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