BETHLEHEM – Imagined in 1964, and inaugurated in 1971, the Effetà Paul VI Institute officially celebrated, on June 7th, 2022, and in the presence of Mgr Pierbattista Pizzaballa, Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, its golden jubilee.
The pandemic will have delayed it by one year. Yesterday, the Effetà Paul VI Institute, located in the city of Bethlehem, officially marked its fifty-year anniversary with a Mass presided by Patriarch Pizzaballa, followed by a reception during which the journey of the Institute was briefly retraced.
The Effetà Paul VI Institute came to light in 1964, when Pope Paul VI – called “the Pope with a big heart” by Greek Patriarch Athenagoras I – visited the Holy Land. During his pilgrimage, noticing the presence of many deaf-mute children in Palestine who were not receiving the proper aid required, he decided to have an institution established especially for them.
In order to fulfill Paul VI's wish, Sr. Irma Zorzanello, Superior General of the Congregation of the Sister Teachers of St. Dorothy Daughters of the Sacred Hearts (in the Holy Land since 1927) wrote to Pope Paul VI to offer him a piece of land owned by the Congregation with a building then under construction at the beginning of what is now known as Paul VI Street in Bethlehem.
The Pope accepted the offer… by returning the property to the congregation and by asking them to take care of the reeducation of Palestinian hearing-impaired children by turning the building being built into a school equipped it with proper and modern scientific equipment. The necessary financing was made possible thanks a collaboration with the Pontificial Mission for Palestine, through the mediation of the Apostolic Delegate for Jerusalem and Palestine. The Patriarch of the time, Mgr Alberto Gori, was also involved on several occasions.
More than six years later, on June 30th, 1971, the Effetà Paul VI Institute was inaugurated by Maximilien Cardinal de Fürstenberg, who a short time later became Grand Master of the Order of the Holy Sepulchre. School activities on September 6th of the same year, with 25 deaf Palestinian pupils, six of whom came from Jordan.
The name “Effetà” comes from Mark 7:32-35, in reference to Jesus’ healing a deaf-mute. "They brought him a deaf-mute and begged him to lay his hand on him. He took him aside, away from the crowd, put his fingers in his ears, and with his saliva touched his tongue; "looking then up to heaven, he uttered a sigh and said to him, "Effata," that is, "Open!" And immediately his ears were opened, and the knot of his tongue was loosed, and he spoke correctly”. On November 14th, 2011, Pope Benedict XVI elevated by motu proprio the Effetà Institute to "Pontificio Istituto Effetà Paul VI”.
Today, the institute welcomes approximately 180 children, from kindergarten to high school, and offers each of them a comprehensive educational program, audio phonetic and acoustic reeducation, and individual accompaniment.
To officially celebrate its fifty-year anniversary, the Institute hosted inside its church a Mass presided by Patriarch Pizzaballa, and co-celebrated by Fr. Nikodemus Schnabel, OSB, Patriarchal Vicar for Migrants and Asylum Seekers, Mgr Giacinto-Boulos Marcuzzo, bishop emeritus, and Mgr. Tomasz Grysa, First Counsellor of the Apostolic Nunciature.
After the Mass, which was attended by the representative of the Pontifical Mission, the deputy mayor of Bethlehem as well as the director, Sisters and staff of the Institute, all the guests and faithful were invited to listen to thanksgiving speeches, allowing the gratitude of the families and of the pupils to this distinguished institution to show.