JERUSALEM – On Friday, March 22, the Committee of Religious of the Holy Land met at the Frère de la Salle school in Jerusalem. This first 2019 meeting took place based on the 11th Pastoral Letter of the Committee of the Catholic Patriarchs of the Middle East published last Pentecost. In addition to about thirty religious Archbishop Leopoldo Girelli, Nuncio and Apostolic Delegate, and Bishop Boulos Marcuzzo were present.
The Committee for Religious of the Holy Land meets periodically, two or three times a year in order to gather representatives of all male religious communities in the area and to promote among them the mutual encounter and acquaintance indispensable in order to emerge from isolation. This is a fairly new event, now in its second year. A meeting that has long been considered indispensable for guaranteeing cohesion and coordination among the various religious who live in the Holy Land, but which saw the light of day just last year. For years, the need was felt to establish a committee that would involve all the religious of the region and act as a coordinating body between them and the local church.
Each meeting aims to address a topic that may be of common interest. This time they had the second reading (after that of H.B. Patriarch Michel Sabbah of November 2018) of the 11th Pastoral Letter of the Council of Catholic Patriarchs of the Middle East.
However, the schedule provides that each time, at the beginning of the committee’s work, representatives of two communities that have something to celebrate or to note during the calendar year will show up. In this gathering it was the turn of the Frères de la Salle and the Franciscans. The former recalled the 300 years since the death of their founder, Father Jean-Baptist de la Salle, while the latter spoke of the events that are accompanying the 800 years celebrations since the meeting of St. Francis with the Sultan Malek Al-Kamel.
Brother Rafael Gonzalez, f.s.c. spoke for the Brothers of the Christian Schools, explaining the presence of the de la Salle schools all over the world and in particular in the Middle East, focusing on their mission dedicated to education and to the specific educational system of young people.
Whereas Father Stéphane Milovich, ofm, represented the Franciscans, speaking of the 8ooth anniversary of the meeting between St. Francis and the Sultan Al-Kamel and highlighting the novelty, above all, from the religious point of view, fundamental for the achievement of peace.
After the introductions and a convivial pause Fr. Franz Bouwen began the conference. The White Father presented the 11th letter of the committee of Catholic Patriarchs of the Middle East, giving an ecumenical slant to its content. The letter, addressed to the faithful of the Middle East, its rulers and the political leaders of the West, develops a long reflection on the religious and socio-political condition of the region, sometimes not sparing hard attacks on those who deliberately make the life of the peoples of this land more complex. Among the topics touched upon, there was talk of education, secularism of the State and the foreign policy of the West in the Middle East.
In the most purely pastoral aspect, the meeting focused on the need for a functional “new education” to form persons in a new human style based on mercy and love.
At the end of the conference there were interventions including that of Bishop Marcuzzo who greatly appreciated the content of the letter, not failing to point out his regret at the fact that this important document is still too little known, despite being published almost a year ago. The Patriarchal Vicar has therefore signaled the opportunity to exhort the parish priests of the Diocese to spread this letter widely, to bring it as much as possible to the knowledge of the faithful.
Filippo De Grazia