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Every Sunday - 9am Divine Liturgy in English (fully or mostly) at the Holy Family Cathedral

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Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Pope Benedict encourages the Eastern and Latin Catholic Churches and communities in the Holy Land: "Candles Illumining the Holy Places"

The Vatican Information Service reports, 12 May 2009:

Today, the Holy Father travelled by car from the "Hechal Shlomo" Centre in Jerusalem to the Cenacle, where he prayed the Angelus with ordinaries of the Holy Land.

The Cenacle is the place where the ordained priesthood and the Sacraments of the Eucharist and Penance were instituted. The Latin word "Coenaculum" was used to indicate the dining area, but more generally signified the upper room where guests were welcomed; it is in the upper room that the chapel is located today. The Christian tradition on the authenticity of the Cenacle goes back to the end of the third century.

The lower floor of the building houses a cenotaph called the "Tomb of David". It is a place of national pilgrimage for Jews, although the reference to David's last resting place has no historical or archaeological foundation. Also on the lower floor is an ancient chapel dedicated to the washing of the feet. Today the building, property of the State of Israel, is one of the places under the aegis of the Custody of the Holy Land, which since the fourteenth century has been administered by Franciscans.

This was considered to be the most important of all the Franciscan provinces as it included the land where Jesus Christ was born, lived, preached the Good News, died and rose from the dead. Indeed, according to the Franciscan order, St. Francis himself visited the Holy Land and this province between 1219 and 1220.

In 1333 Robert of Anjou, king of Naples, and his wife, Queen Sancha, negotiated with the sultan of Egypt, through Friar Ruggero Garini, to purchase the Cenacle and the right to celebrate religious ceremonies in the Holy Sepulchre. Friar Garini, with financial assistance from the queen, then built a monastery near the Cenacle. The king and queen also secured the right for Franciscans to legally own certain sanctuaries and to have the right of use in others.

In 1342, Pope Clement VI, in two papal bulls, hailed the work of the king and queen of Naples and set forth instructions on running the ecclesiastical province of the Custody of the Holy Land.

The first statutes of the Franciscans regarding the Holy Land date from 1377 and state that a maximum of 20 friars should serve the Holy Places of the Cenacle, the Holy Sepulchre and Bethlehem. In 1517 the Custody of the Holy Land was granted complete autonomy and the Holy See granted it the status of province with special privileges and particular rights. Since 1558 the Custody has had its seat in the convent of the Most Holy Saviour.

While the term Custody of the Holy Land refers to the ecclesiastical province, the Custos of the Holy Land is the minister provincial of the friars living in the Middle East. He has jurisdiction over the territories of Israel, Palestine, Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt (partially), Cyprus and Rhodes. Given the importance of his role, the Custos is directly nominated by the Holy See, after consultation with the friars of the custody. The current Custos is Fr. Pierbattista Pizzaballa.

"You represent the Catholic communities of the Holy Land", said the Holy Father in his address to the assembled ordinaries, "who in their faith and devotion are like lighted candles illuminating the Holy Places that were graced by the presence of Jesus our living Lord".

"In the Upper Room the mystery of grace and salvation, of which we are recipients and also heralds and ministers, can be expressed only in terms of love. Because He has loved us first and continues to do so, we can respond with love".

"This transforming love, which is grace and truth, prompts us, as individuals and communities, to overcome the temptation to turn in upon ourselves in selfishness or indolence, isolation, prejudice or fear, and to give ourselves generously to the Lord and to others. It moves us as Christian communities to be faithful to our mission with frankness and courage".

"The call to communion of mind and heart ... is of special relevance in the Holy Land. The different Christian Churches found here represent a rich and varied spiritual patrimony and are a sign of the multiple forms of interaction between the Gospel and different cultures. They also remind us that the mission of the Church is to preach the universal love of God and to gather, from far and near, all who are called by Him, in such a way that, with their traditions and their talents, they form the one family of God".

"In the measure in which the gift of love is accepted and grows in the Church, the Christian presence in the Holy Land and in the neighbouring regions will be vibrant. This presence is of vital importance for the good of society as a whole. The clear words of Jesus on the intimate bond between love of God and love of neighbour, on mercy and compassion, on meekness, peace and forgiveness, are a leaven capable of transforming hearts and shaping actions. Christians in the Middle East, together with other people of good will, are contributing, as loyal and responsible citizens, in spite of difficulties and restrictions, to the promotion and consolidation of a climate of peace in diversity".

"Count on my support and encouragement", the Pope told the bishops, "as you do all that is in your power to assist our Christian brothers and sisters to remain and prosper here in the land of their ancestors and to be messengers and promoters of peace".

"For my part, I renew my appeal to our brothers and sisters world-wide to support and to remember in their prayers the Christian communities of the Holy Land and the Middle East".

After praying the Regina Coeli, Benedict XVI moved on to the Latin co-cathedral of Jerusalem where he greeted the 300 people gathered there to welcome him, among them various female religious of contemplative orders. Having venerated the Blessed Sacrament and listened to a brief greeting from the Latin patriarch of Jerusalem, the Pope thanked the religious for their prayers for his universal ministry and asked them, "in the words of the Psalmist, ... to 'pray for the peace of Jerusalem', to pray without ceasing for an end to the conflict that has brought so much suffering to the peoples of this land".

The ceremony over, the Holy Father had lunch with ordinaries and abbots of the Holy Land at the Latin Patriarchate in Jerusalem.

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