More than nintey Franciscan friars from the Holy Land Custody who live in the friaries of Judea met at the Retreat Centre of Our Lady Ark of the Covenant, at Qiryat Ye’arim on Thursday 10 November, for a one day session of ongoing formation. The initiative was taken by Fr. Pierbattista Pizzaballa, Holy Land Custos, together with his Discretorium and the Council of Formation.
The idea of organizing meetings catered for friars living in various regions of the Custody is a priority, since the Holy Land Custody is spread out in different countries and regions, such as Israel-Palestine (Galilee and Judea), Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, Cyprus-Rhodes, Italy, the USA and Argentina. The majority of the Franciscans of the Custody live in Judea and Galilee.
The theme of the meeting was: “The Grace of our Origins: Our presence in the Holy Land”. The Order of Friars Minor has published a document as a preparation to the 800 anniversary of its foundation in 2009. It is the wish of the Minister General, Fr. Jose Rodriguez Carballo, that all the entities of the Order reflect on the grace of the origins of the Franciscan experience and plan ahead in a spirit of hope.
The programme included the celebration of Morning Prayer in the church of Our Lady Ark of the Covenant, followed by a presentation by Fr. Pizzaballa. He spoke about the Custody and about what the Custodial government has accomplished in these first one and a half years, and then presented the friars with questions and challenges for the future. The friars then met in 6 working groups to discuss various themes proposed. At noon they celebrated the Eucharist and afterwards had lunch in the beautiful gardens of the retreat house, run by the Sisters of St. Joseph of the Apparition. After a short break they met again for the presentation of the discussions of the groups and for questions and discussion. A final synthesis was drawn up by the Father Custos. The friars expressed the desire that such meetings would be organized on a more frequent basis in the future.
At 4.30 pm the friars left Qiryat Ye’arim and went down the short distance to the Abbey of the Resurrection at Abu Gosh, where they were invited to participate in the singing of Vespers together with the community of Benedictine monks and nuns. They were warmly welcomed by the monks from the Monte Oliveto Congregation, who guided them in the history of the crusader church of Abu Gosh, and later sang the Vespers in a very contemplative atmosphere.
A similar meeting is now planned to take place for the friars of Galilee on the Mount of Beatitudes on Friday 9 December 2005.