Fr. Pierbattista Pizzzballa, Franciscan Custodian of the Holy Land, encourages us to come to the Land of Jesus.
“Since some times, and especially due to the fear caused by the wars in the Middle East and the attacks perpetrated by the fundamentalists groups who even hit some western countries, the pilgrimages to the Holy Land were affected and came into a decrease. Knowing how to interpret the voice of the different Christian communities in Israel and Palestine, I would like to ask you: “don’t leave the Holy Land. There is no reasonable motive to quit organizing pilgrimages to the Holy Places. The security in the shrines and in the areas visited by the pilgrims is guaranteed and we, the Christians, need the presence and support of the pilgrims more than ever, who should come close to us in prayer from all parts of the world”.
Live as Christian in the Holy Land means to have especial and universal vocation. Here the Latin Church consists essentially from three groups: the local Christian Arab Communities who is the old group of Palestinians that represents the Christian presence in those places; the Kehila of Hebrew language, which is a new church in progress that assembles evangelists, messianic Jews and Catholics and that celebrate the Eucharist in Hebrew; the international community which includes lots of foreign workers, especially Pilipino, Latin-American and Indians who reside stably in the Holy Land and also some other groups from different origins who, in a way or in another, live here in short or large periods of time. Together with the Latin Church, there are also very important Christian realities, such as the Greek Orthodox Church, the Armenian Church and the Coptic Church. Even within the catholic world, there are groups with different rites than the Latin.
Jerusalem and the Christian Holy Places were till now the fundamental signs of faith, the testimony of life, of death and of resurrection of Jesus, who, precisely here, were accomplished. All Christians, even the most remote ones, are looking at the Holy Land to find in those signs their own roots and the real meaning of their mission all over the world. In the Holy Land you can read the life of Jesus, school of the Gospel. Here you can learn to look, listen, meditate and taste the silence in order to reach the profound and mysterious significance of His footsteps. The atmosphere that marks His stay between us comes to evoke sites, customs, colors and perfumes; those same ones that Jesus knew when He revealed himself to the world.
Christians were always a minority in the Holy Land, a weak presence but with a solid heart and they never disappeared. They are called to present a high testimony of faith, to become a living presence, in love with their own history and of their own ideas. Not to fear the changes and diversities, but to be open minded, serene, free, positive and at the same time clear; rooted in their own sense of identity and belonging, walking towards the future and active in the custody of the Holy Places as they are the depositaries of the tradition and memory of all Christianity.
Precisely to guard this presence (and if possible to strengthen it), I invite one more time all the Dioceses, Parishes and Movements, NOT TO ABANDON US. But to work in order to make that the Pilgrimages to the Holy Land would be a testimony of peace and dialogue. I’m totally convinced that my call will be welcomed by lots of believers, who love the Holy Land and that, in the streets that Jesus once walked through, one more time we’ll see the increase in the presence of those who have taken the way to meet the One who came for our salvation.