Franciscan Superior Takes His Message to the Holy Land

Urges a Commitment to Life Amid Violence

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JERUSALEM, OCT. 30, 2003 (Zenit.org).- On his visit to the Holy Land the new Franciscan minister general of the Order of Friars Minor is leaving a key message: to put life into a world of death.



As he visits the Christian communities responsible for the Custody of the Holy Land, Father José Rodríguez Carballo is repeating St. Francis' message at a time of acute crisis in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

"There is no alternative to dialogue and peace," he said Wednesday when addressing the friars of the Bethlehem community.

Bethlehem's Basilica of the Nativity, and the Franciscans, Greek Orthodox and Armenians who administer it, endured a 39-day siege by the Israeli army last year after some 200 armed Palestinians invaded the church.

"How long, Lord? Until when? When will the wars and conflicts cease?" the Spanish friar asked. "When will we men listen to the Gospel of peace proclaimed in this land? When will we be able to see this land pacified?"

The priest, who was elected last June to lead his order, continued: "At the same time that we are praying for the gift of peace in this land bathed in the blood of the Lamb, who takes away the sin of the world, in this land that is holy for the three great monotheistic religions, we cannot but cry out and condemn, once again, terrorism, violence and war."

When visiting the Basilica of the Resurrection on Monday, the minister general explained to his brothers in religion that their "great mission" today is "to put life into a world of death."

"This is your great mission here in the Holy Land, where hatred, terror, violence and war do not hold back and where blood, often of the innocent, continues to flow unjustifiably … along the streets of this Holy City," he added.

During his meeting with the friars in Judea, the Franciscan leader said: "Rejoice with the people, suffer with the people, share the fate of the people, and serve the people, not as masters but as humble servants."

Father Rodríguez Carballo emphasized that the order is called to live its missionary spirit. "To respond to this invitation means, among other things, to create new apostolic and missionary activities that better respond to the demands of our vocation as Friars Minor. We must review our service in parishes, shrines and in the other traditional places of presence, without ever forgetting that, in fidelity to our charism, we are called to be present especially in the places of brokenness where nobody wants to go."

During his visit to the Studium Biblicum on Sunday, the minister general stressed the importance of this world center of study being declared a biblical faculty. He added that the "wisdom of the Friar Minor, the knowledge of the Word of God, is not an end in itself, but must be translated into life."

The Custody of the Holy Land was established by the Franciscan general chapter held in 1217.