ABU GOSH – On Thursday, May 16, 2019, Benedetto di Bitonto was ordained a priest for the Vicariate of Saint James, dedicated to Hebrew-speaking Catholics. The celebration, which took place at the Church of Our Lady of the Ark of the Covenant in Abu Gosh, brought together a large number of faithful and religious from all over the Holy Land. Although all those present had very different origins, there was, however, a very strong moment of universality in faith and joy.
An extraordinary event …
Every ordination is a unique moment because the commitment of a man of his entire life for the Church and for Christ is always very significant. And on Thursday, May 16th, the ordination of Benedetto Di Bitonto did not depart from the rule and was also experienced by many participants as a moment of special grace. The sober church of the convent of Our Lady of the Ark of the Alliance of the Sisters of St. Joseph of the Apparition was packed: the Hebrew speaking faithful – of very different origins – of the Vicariate of St. James and of many religious of the Holy Land, responded to Benedetto’s invitation. Among the crowd we also saw Coptic priests, and young friends of the ordinand wearing kippahs!
The priests of the Holy Land, the Patriarchate, the Vicariate of St. James, the Franciscans, the Salesians, the Dominicans and other communities also came in large numbers to surround Benedict, patting him on the back and giving him a warm welcome in the priestly family. An auxiliary bishop of Rome, Bishop Daniele Libanori, who knows Benedetto well, also made the trip and concelebrated with Archbishop Pizzaballa and Bishop Marcuzzo.
For an unusual man!
For Benedetto’s parents, hailing from a Catholic family in Naples, the ordination of their son is not entirely surprising: “Benedict showed rather surprising character traits from an early age: he had the propensity to think of others, with an unusual generosity for a child or a teenager. And we knew he thirsted for the absolute. The unlikely choice of the son to serve the Church in a country other than his own and in a different community in that same country gives them the simple and profound joy of parents who see their child “realize a dream,” a project that perfectly resembles him.
“This ministry is not your choice.”
In the homily given in Hebrew, the Apostolic Administrator of the Latin Patriarchate addressed Benedetto and took up the texts chosen by the ordinand to give him some ideas and to help him live his priesthood. Among these, the Archbishop reminded Benedetto that, as David was chosen by God, the vocation did not start from him, but from the Lord: “This ministry is not your choice, nor is it your mission.” The Prelate has repeatedly insisted that the priest must be attentive to the community that surrounds him and to the brothers given to him: “The obedience that you will have to live is in the trust you have in the brothers and sisters that the Lord puts on your path. Furthermore, it is in the community and through the community that the Holy Spirit speaks. These reflections recall the words of Pope Francis asking priests to free themselves from clericalism.
A moment of universality on a land marked by conflict
At the end of the Ordination Mass, a hundred people lined up to receive the blessing of the new priest, and the joy of being gathered in communion involved everyone. The participants in the celebration were happy for Benedetto, but also happy to have shared such a strong moment with people who are often very different in origin, language, administrative situation in the country and even for religion!’
Although it is not yet possible to imagine such a spirit of union in a diocese inhabited by a population marked by war and its consequences, it was nice to have an image of what the Lord hopes for us: a living and warm fraternity, united to sing his praise.