Dear Brothers and Sisters,
I thank you for having come here from many different parts of the Holy Land.
I greet in particular
His Eminence Edwin Cardinal O’Brien,
The Heads of Catholic Churches,
The Heads of the Christian Churches,
The Consuls General,
The Palestinian Delegation,
Priests and Religious,
The Seminarians from Beit Jala and Domus Galilaeae,
The Magnificat Choir,
All Priests and Parishes,
I have repeated on several occasions my surprise and gratitude for what is happening to me personally and to the Church of Jerusalem, as a result of the Holy Father’s decision.
“Sufficit tibi gratia mea” – “My grace is sufficient for you” (2 Cor 12: 9). In the light of this biblical passage, I have chosen to carry out the new service that has been asked of me. Everything is a grace, said a famous writer. Most of all, the daily awareness of my weakness and my limits is a grace, a true open door through which, till now, the mercy of God has flowed. And despite my weaknesses, I am amazed to see how the Lord, nevertheless, passes through me with his work.
I began my service on the day when the Church commemorates the birth of John the Baptist. And inspired by his character, I have considered the beginning of my ministry as a “Prepare the Way… open, straight ways, free from all that hinders the encounter with Him and between us.” And I added: “I want for us and for the whole Church the ability to meet and greet one another, building roads and bridges and not walls would go out again from Jerusalem.”
I can only repeat this wish. Welcoming, listening, discerning and together, guiding the path of the Church for the coming years.
I know it will not be easy. I am not naive. After the joy of the transfiguration, there is the descent from the Mount, in ordinary and everyday life, with its share of joys certainly, but also of problems, sufferings and divisions. And in Jerusalem, and more generally in the Holy Land, the divisions are not lacking. They are rough, and in our daily lives they cause harm. We see it all the time: in political and social life, in a political conflict that ruins life for all, in dignity offended, in the lack of respect for the basic rights of people; we also see it in inter-religious relations, between our churches and also often within our respective churches. The devil, who is the origin of the divisions, seems to have taken up residence in Jerusalem.
Well then, precisely in such a difficult context and one that does not allow us to create illusions, we are called to be Church, that is, to give our witness of unity. Here, in a word, in this torn and divided environment, the first announcement to be made is unity, which begins with us, within our house.
In this context, I thank the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem, for his participation, through his delegate, in my episcopal consecration, and from henceforth I assure you of my wish to work for fellowship and mutual harmony. In fact, we cannot afford to give lessons of dialogue to the world if divisions and mistrust prevail among us!
Jerusalem recalls Easter. In the Holy Sepulchre it is always Easter. Easter signifies passing: from death to life, from darkness to light, from the distrust of the disciples of Emmaus to the excitement of the apostles at Pentecost. We must, we want, then, to become experts in a life that comes from the Cross, a life that is not resigned to death, but one that conquers with love. I want to carry out therefore my service as a bishop, in the light of Easter. Faced with the many signs of death in and around us, I would like to accompany this our church in going over again its own history, as Jesus did with the disciples of Emmaus, to discover a Presence that never abandoned us and that is the source of eternal life. And to ask ourselves if we really believe this. If we truly believe that Christ is the source of strength and life.
In fact, our human strategies, often conceived hastily and superficially, cannot save the Church and its institutions. Our greatness is not measured in the number of undertakings that we can make and not even in the degree of consensus that we will reach. All this passes quickly. And perhaps we should ask ourselves if we have spent too much energy and attention to what instead is secondary.
“Sufficit tibi gratia mea”. First of all, seek and accept the grace of God. We must start from the awareness of the presence of Christ among us. It is this awareness that must be at the origin of our choices and our projects. Everything else comes after.
I ask all of you to help me in this service.
To the lay people, the families, the men and women religious who play such an important service in our Church, to the priests and bishops, and especially the young people, who are our future, I ask you to support me and accompany me. I ask you to help me with prayer, first of all, but also in guiding together our church along the next journey.
I desire that the different souls that make up our church, one but very diverse, might collaborate ever more and better. In this regard, I wrote a few days ago to the priests of the Patriarchate:
“The Church of Jerusalem, is rich in initiatives, even in prestigious institutions (I think of the theological and biblical institutes, the Universities of Bethlehem and Madaba), institutes of religious men and women, of movements, of many schools that play an important service and which are a much-desired pastoral determinant; we have unique and special relations with other Christian Churches, not to mention the necessity of coordination with the Eastern Catholic Churches; inter-relationship with Muslims and Jews is our daily bread, though never easy; the arrival of foreign workers and refugees both in Jordan and the Holy Land has brought new dynamics to our Church; in all our territories it becomes difficult to care for and to keep abreast of families, who increasingly move away from the Church; the presence of hundreds of thousands of pilgrims from around the world puts us in contact then with the universal Church that in Jerusalem, as on the day of Pentecost, continues to gather together; nor can we, moreover, ignore that we are in the Land where God’s Word was written and was fulfilled.”
Well, for me, being Church means that all these feel part of a single body, and participants with each other. I hope that this feeling is shared by you.
I want to be bishop of all and for all. And I hope for the full cooperation of all.
I thank you for having accompanied me this far with your prayers and assistance. I have lived very beautiful and intense moments that have comforted and consoled me. You have been the consolation of God in these past months.
May God sustain our path towards Him, open our eyes to the suffering of this Land and its inhabitants, and make us capable of consolation and comfort.
And to all of you goes my prayer and blessing.
Original version in italian.