Custody of Holy Land Puts Focus on Friars' Formation

Chapter of Custody Brought Together 51 Franciscans

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AMMAN, Jordan, JULY 29, 2004 (Zenit.org).- The Chapter of the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land ended with an awareness of the need for “initial solid formation” as the basis of all its apostolic activities.

Participants also agreed on the need for “a serious and programmed permanent formation” to consolidate the friars’ identity.

With the theme “Prophets of Reconciliation and Peace,” the more than weeklong meeting brought together 51 Friars Minor representing the fraternities that make up the Custody, present in 12 countries. The chapter ended last Friday.

In a letter addressed to the religious of the Custody, the chapter participants said at the end of the meeting: “We have become aware” that at the base of the “evangelizing activities in holy places, parishes, schools and different areas of the apostolate” there must be “a solid initial formation which helps us to assume, day after day, a greater creative fidelity to our being Franciscans in the Holy Land.”

“Our identity must be consolidated with the help of a serious and programmed permanent formation,” the participants added.

The real challenge is in “the formation and revision of the structures of government,” Father Pierbattista Pizzaballa, Custos of the Holy Land, told the Italian bishops’ SIR agency.

“For several years, most vocations have come from Arab countries,” he said. “So in our program of formation we must keep in mind the possibility, or perhaps the necessity to study, at least in part, also in Arabic.”

Therefore, “the study of local languages will be an integral part of formation,” Father Pizzaballa added. “The holy places remain obviously as the place and environment necessary for such formation, but the possibility is not excluded of opening houses of formation also in Syria and Lebanon.”

The chapter called for greater decentralization of the structure of the government of the Custody.

“The Custody extends over 12 countries; therefore, it is necessary that the areas that are more distant from Jerusalem, or those with which communication is more difficult, have a certain autonomy of management,” Father Pizzaballa said.

The chapter also provided the opportunity “to discuss the role of the holy places and especially the need to send more religious to the main shrines,” he added.

“We will also have to study forms of illustration of the shrines that take account of the new computer technologies,” the Franciscan said.

He also said that improvements in the system of communication and information are planned. “The objective is to make the different ecclesial communities in the world better and more known,” he said.

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