The Mission of the ‘Holy Land’ Review Is to ‘Tell about Fraternity’

The Pope’s Encouragement on the Centenary of the Publication

Holy Land Review
Father Patton's greeting to the Holy Father (C) Vatican Media

Pope Francis received the Delegation of the Custody of the Holy Land, led by the Custos, Father Francis Patton, on the centenary of ”The Holy Land” Review. The Holy Father reminded us that “communication, in the times of social networks, must help to build community, better still, fraternity.” Here is his address, which he delivered seated, as this morning the Pontiff was suffering from acute sciatica.

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 The Holy Father’s Address

I welcome you on the occasion of the “The Holy Land” Review’s one hundred years. I thank the Custos of the Holy Land, Father Francis Patton, O.F.M., for his introductory words. And I greet you all with gratitude, who work in the writing of the Review in the different linguistic editions and for the Holy Land Editions, as well as those that work on the Websites and the social media and all the collaborators of the Christian Media Center. The service you carry out today is in line of continuity with the communicative intuition that one hundred years ago guided Custos Ferdinando Diotallevi, and consists – as he wrote in the first issue of the Review – “in the main, of making the Holy Land known, the Land of God, the cradle of Christianity, the venerated shrines where the Redemption of the human race was wrought. “

The Fifth Gospel

 To make the Holy Land known means to transmit the “Fifth Gospel,” that is, the historical and geographical environment in which the Word of God was revealed and then made flesh in Jesus of Nazareth, for us and for our salvation. It also means to make known the people that inhabit it today, the life of the Christians of the various Churches and denominations, but also that of the Jews and Muslims, to try to build, in a complex and difficult context, as the Middle Eastern is, a fraternal society.

Communication, in the time of social networks, must help to build community, better still, fraternity. I encourage you to tell about a possible fraternity, between Christians of Churches and Confessions that, unfortunately, are still separated, but that in the Holy Land are often already close to unity, as I myself had the occasion to verify. To tell about fraternity among all the children of Abraham, Jews, Christians, and Muslims.

The Most Difficult Realities

 To tell about ecclesial fraternity that opens to immigrants, the displaced and refugees, to restore the dignity of which they were deprived when they had to leave their homeland in search of a future for themselves and for their children. To tell about that reality. I thank you because to tell about the Holy Land you forced yourselves to meet people where and how they are. In fact, to carry out your services, your inquiries, and your publications, you do not limit yourselves to the calmest territories, but you also visit the most difficult and suffering realities, such as Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, and Gaza.

Positive Stories

 I know that you try to present the stories well, those of active resistance to the evil of war, those of reconciliation, those of the restitution of dignity to children robbed of their childhood, those of refugees with their tragedies but also their dreams and hopes. Thank you because to do your work thus, you haven’t spared the soles of your shoes, and I know you won’t spare them either in the future, to be able to tell all this.  In fact, in communicating a specific reality, nothing can completely substitute personal experience, living there. And you live and work precisely in the place in which the Word of God, His message of salvation, was made flesh and made “encounterable” in Jesus Christ, not only in His words but in His eyes, in His voice, in His gestures.

Jesus’ attraction “depended on the truth of his preaching, but the efficacy of what He said was inseparable from His gaze, from His attitudes, and even from His silences. Not only did the disciples listen to His words, they saw Him talking. In fact in Him – the Incarnate Word – the Word became Face, the invisible God let Himself be seen, felt and touched  [. . . ]. The Word is effective only if it is “seen,” only if it involves you in an experience, in a dialogue” (Ibid.).

 Enrich the Faith

 Dear communicators of the Custody of the Holy Land, you are called to make know what the Synod on the Word of God and then Pope Benedict XVI called “the Fifth Gospel,” namely, that Land in which the history and geography of salvation meet and make possible a new reading of the biblical text, in particular the evangelical texts. “We can see” there, in fact, touch the reality of the story God has realized with men. Beginning with the places of the life of Abraham to the places of Jesus’ life, from the Incarnation to the empty tomb, sign of the Resurrection.

Yes, God has entered in this land, He has acted with us in this world.” The Paschal Mystery illumines and gives meaning also to the history of today, to the path of populations that live in that Land today, path marked unfortunately by wounds and conflicts still today, but may the grace of God always open to hope, hope of fraternity and of peace (cf. Ibid.).

In this sense also, telling about the Holy Land, you tell about the “Fifth Gospel,” that which God continues to write in history. Through the means of social communication, you can enrich the faith of so many, including of those that don’t have the possibility to make a pilgrimage to the holy places. You do so through your professional commitment, geared every day competently to the service of the Gospel. This is precious for believers of the whole world and, at the same time, it goes to support Christians that live in Jesus’ Land.

The Pope’s Closeness

 And I want to take advantage of this occasion to express my closeness to them. I always remember them, also in prayer. Please, when you return home, take my greeting and my blessing to the Christian families and communities of the Holy Land.

Dear brothers and sisters, may the Lord’s providence and the Holy Virgin’s protection accompany you always in your activity. I impart my heartfelt Blessing to all of you and to the other collaborators who were unable to come. And I ask you also for prayer from the Holy Land for me. Thank you!

Translation by Virginia M. Forrester