BETHLEHEM – On November 15, at the Bethlehem branch of Misericordia, a naming ceremony took place of the branch after Maria Pia Bertolucci, a sister who spent so much time and effort on the realization of this reality in the Holy Land. Present at the ceremony was a delegation of the National Confederation of Misericordia of Italy that arrived in the evening with Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa, Apostolic Administrator of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem and with the Italian Consul General, Fabio Sokolowicz.
As of now, Bethlehem Misericordia is called “Casa Maria Pia,” a reality present in the city of Jesus since 2013, the year of its foundation. It’s a dwelling destined to welcome Italian volunteers of Misericordia, whose realization was strongly desired by Maria Pia Bertolucci, a sister of the Misericordia from Capannori (Lucca), who died prematurely on February 20 this year. Bertolucci, a historical figure in the world of Tuscan “Misericordie,” over the years has also held various positions in the National Confederation of Misericordia of Italy: she was a national councilor from 2012 until the beginning of 2019, years in which she also held the role of treasurer; in 2015 she was also one of the main promoters of the Consortium Works of Misericordia.
About 30 people were present at the naming ceremony of the venue in her name. A group of 16 friends and confraternity members from Capannori, a town near Lucca couldn’t imagine missing the event. Capannori is a place that hosts the eponymous Misericordia of which Maria Pia was a member. For the occasion, the invited siblings of “Mapi” (Maria Pia’s sobriquet) were present, a tender sobriquet that Alessandra and Fr. Luigi Bertolucci still love to use in speaking of their departed sister.
To promote the event, together with the Dr. Elias Almarajda, Palestinian Supervisor of the Bethlehem Misericordia, the National Confederation of Misericordia branches thought of paying tribute to Bertolucci by sending a delegation led by its President, Roberto Trucchi and composed, among others, of the International Chief Executive Officer, Pierluigi Ciari, and the spiritual director – “correttore”- of the Italian Mercies, H.E. Bishop Franco Agostinelli.
Also present were the “correttore” of the Misericordia of Bethlehem, Fr. Iyad Twal, Father Yacoub Abusada the Greek-Melkite Bethlehem parish priest, the Sisters of the Institute of the Incarnate Word (Orphanage), the Teaching Sisters of Saint Dorothy (Ephpheta) and the Franciscan Minim Sisters of the Sacred Heart.
The Misericordia of Bethlehem was born with the intention of bringing solace and assistance to the Palestinian population, periodically hosting groups of volunteers from the branches of Misericordia of every part of Italy in its facility. The volunteers’ activities, during their stay in Bethlehem, consists in doing service at those organizations with which the local Misericordia has developed collaboration agreements: the “Hogar Nino Dios,” a house for disabled children managed by the Sisters of the Institute of the Incarnate Word; the St. Anthony Center for the elderly; the Paul VI Ephpheta Center for the hearing-impaired children, managed by the Teaching Sisters of Saint Dorothy. The collaboration between Misericordia of Bethlehem and the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem was also excellent, which last year and this year permitted voluntary civil service at the Misericordia of Bethlehem to carry out its activity in the media office of the diocese of the Holy Land, with which it still collaborates.
Since 2016, the Misericordia of Bethlehem also hosts an eye clinic that provides a free service to anyone who needs it, every Saturday morning. A valuable service that in the first few years of its activity has reached thousands of people, thus realizing the response to the users’ needs that each Misericordia proposes, institutionally and spiritually, to guarantee in the territory. It’s a dream that Maria Pia Bertolucci could see realized in Bethlehem with her eyes, in her last visit back in February 2018. A service that even Maria Pia’s sister, Alessandra, an ophthalmologist in New Jersey, was able to appreciate on Friday, not hiding a certain emotion.
The dedication ceremony was followed by a dinner at the Casa Nova Hotel in Bethlehem where the delegation of the Confederation was joined by Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa and the Italian Consul General, Fabio Sokolowicz. In the special setting of the nearby Basilica of the Nativity, the President of the Confederation, Roberto Trucchi, spoke to the two illustrious guests of the reality of Italian Mercy and of the small but increasingly significant Mercy of Bethlehem, thus nurturing an even closer relationship of mutual esteem and collaboration between the Misericordia branches, the Italian Consulate and the Church of the Holy Land.
Filippo De Grazia