"To the Service of the 'Pearl' of the Missions"
JERUSALEM, 13 JAN. 2007 (ZENIT)
Here is address Father José Rodríguez
Carballo, minister general of the Order of Friars Minor, delivered Nov.
19 at the opening of the International Congress of the Commissaries of
the Holy Land, which took place in Jerusalem.
* * *
Almost 800 years have passed since Francis came to this land in 1219.
Since then our presence in this land
called, with reason, "the fifth Gospel," because it was blessed with the
presence of the Son of the Almighty and his holy Mother, and bathed with
the blood of the Redeemer
has been constant in despite of the many difficulties and the all kinds
1. A little bit of history
The general chapter of the order in 1217 organized the fraternity into
11 provinces, and entrusted the province of Syria, also called Province
of Holy Land and of Pro-Mission and Overseas, to Brother Elias.
In 1218, or maybe before, the first Franciscans arrived in Acre. Between
the years 1217 and 1291, the Province of the Holy Land, today Custody of
the Holy Land, had at least 12 friaries (convents): Acre, Antioquia,
Sayda, Tripoli, Tyro, Jerusalem, Hefa, Damieta, Nicostia, Limassol,
Framagusta and Paphos.
With the fall of the Latin kingdom, the convents were devastated and
"the majority of the minors," states Wading, "put on the palm of the
martyrdom." And not only our brothers but also the Poor Clares wrote,
then, one of the most glorious pages of their history: In order not to
be raped, they mutilated themselves, however, they were beheaded
A few years later, from Cyprus, our brothers will return to Jerusalem,
probably before 1309. Between 1322 and 1327 we, the Franciscans, were
already at the Holy Sepulchre, and in 1333 had possession of the
Cenacle. In 1342, Nov. 21, the Holy See erects canonically the Custody
of the Holy Land. In the General Chapter of Lausana (1414), the guardian
of Mont Zion became the Custos of the Holy Land and still keeps that
Since their arrival, following the example of Francis of Assisi, "the
saint of poverty, meekness and peace," the Franciscans, known here as
"the friars of the cord," have interpreted
along with our brothers of the Eastern Churches
in the name of the Catholic Church, "the genuine evangelic way, the
legitimate Christian desire to guard the places where our Christian
roots were laid."
John Paul II had no hesitation to consider a providential act. Thanks to
their presence, we, the Franciscans, have been great authors of the
Christian history in the Holy Land, whether referring to the recovery of
the holy places or the care of the Catholic communities in the land of
The Popes have shown always great appreciation for the uninterrupted and
providential mission of the Franciscans in the Holy Land since the 13th
century until these days. The order considers it rightly so "the pearl"
of their missions. I, as minister general, and in the name of the whole
order, recalling the years that I spent in The Holy Land and therefore,
aware of the work that it's being done there, wish to thank the many
brothers who have come, in the past and the present, to this Custody
from the most diverse places of the Franciscan geography for their
"Christian animation" service even in very difficult and heroic
situations that have led some of them to martyrdom.
We can say without boasting about it but honoring the historic truth
that we believe that the Franciscans have responded, and are still
responding, with fidelity to the trust that the Church has entrusted us.
And as we thank the Santa Sede for the trust placed in us, we reaffirm
our firm willingness to continue giving an example of fidelity to this
responsibility entrusted to us, giving to the faithful of those places
and to all the pilgrims, a testimony of love and union with Christ,
redeemer of humankind.
2. 8th centenary of the founding of the order
With a solemn vigil prayer in the Basilica of St. Clare and San Damian
(Assisi) on Oct. 28, 2006 and a solemn Eucharistic celebration in the
Porciuncula on Oct. 29 we started the way to the preparation that will
take us, with the grace of God, to the celebration, in 2009, of the 8th
Centenary of the founding of our order.
In my letter to the whole order, "The Grace of Our Origins," issued on
Dec. 8, 2004, I presented the program of the jubilee celebrations
planned in three stages. The first one, in the year 2006, has been
dedicated to discernment and the theme was: "Listen in order to
transform your life!"
The second stage, which we will start soon and will last all the year
2007, will have as motto "Daring to live the Gospel!" and will be
dedicated to the Life Project, which, for us, is rooted in the Gospel
and the rule, and it is captured today in the constitutions and the
priorities of the order. The third stage, which has as motto "Restoring
everything to the Lord with the words of life!" will take place during
the years 2008-2009; will be a public celebration of our vocation as
Friars Minor and is centered on the profession formula.
Always according to the program planned in "The Grace of Our Origins,"
the way to the preparation of the 8th centenary of the founding of our
order got momentum from one question which was the very same question
that marked the beginning of the conversion of our brother Francis in
1206: "Lord, what do want me to do?" (TC 6).
With this we intend to read our own reality
life and mission
in the beginning of the third millennium, in order to continue being
faithful to humanity and to the Gospel lived in the Church according to
Francis' intuition. We intend also reread our being
fraternity-in-mission according to what is specific of the vocation and
mission of the Friars Minor.
The road started in 2006 continues making reference to Francis' brave
decision to live the Gospel," sine glosa": "This is what I want, this is
what I ask, to live the Gospel with al my heart!" (1 Cel 22). With this,
we would like to put the Gospel and Francis' form of life that we have
professed, and deepens its roots in the Gospel itself, in the center of
our focus and our life and mission.
That celebrating journey should conclude in amazement and gratitude to
God for the gift of the Franciscan vocation that has given to us. It
should conclude with a feast, the feast of vocation. We want to say to
the world that we are happy with the legacy that we have received, the
legacy that we are Friars Minor, since we really consider it "a
beautiful legacy." However, we can only have a feast if we are willing
to "restore," with words and actions, what we have received from the
Lord, which is everything. For this reason, we will renew, with new
energy and enthusiasm, the profession that one day we have made.
In this way, the celebration of the 8th centenary is presented as a
triple call: call to conversion, to be born again (cf. John 3:3); call
to re-appropriate the Gospel as our rule and life (cf. 2R, 1, 1), and
from there, a call to celebrate the gift of our vocation. The real
meaning of this is to "reproduce with courage and audacity the
creativity of the sanctity" of Francis in order to give answer to the
signs of the times in today's world." (cf. VC 37).
The Friars Minor, and not only us, recognize that the Gospel continues
being the good news, as it was for Francis, and we also recognize that
the form of life that Francis lived and transmitted to us is completely
up-to date. For this reason, we want to reproduce in our lives the
evangelic values that Francis lived. But at the same time we are aware
that those same values need to be interpreted and brought up-to date in
the light of the realities of the current world so they would continue
being "visible" and "significant" for the men and women of today's
With the celebration of the grace of our origins, we don't only want to
return to those values lived by Francis, even when this would be
necessary, if we have separated from them, we want, and we wish
passionately to "pour new wine in new wineskins" so we would respond in
new ways to new questions. It is in this sense that we talk about
re-foundation of our life and mission. In this context I believe I am
not mistaken if I state that the most urgent question in the
circumstances in which we are living is not: What did Francis do in his
time? But what would Francis do in this very moment, in the
circumstances in which each one of us is living?
3. Main challenges that come from the jubilee celebration
Many are the challenges that come to our mind when we recall the
eight-time-secular history of our order, rich and complex. I think all
of them can be summarized as John Paul II proposed at the beginning of
the third millennium.
Look at the past with gratitude; embrace the future with hope; living
the present with passion
This was the program that John Paul II proposed to all the Church at the
beginning of the third millennium (cf. NMI 1). Our history, as well as
the history of the Custody of the Holy Land, read with the eyes of
faith, is a history of grace, an astonishing revelation of a God who
does not stop working wonders in the brothers and through them, making
possible the generosity of giving oneself and manifesting the glory of
God's grace in our recognized weaknesses. We need to learn that history.
We need to reconcile with it even in its negative aspects in order to
assume it as our own and to transmit it to the next generations. We
cannot, and do not want, to renounce this history that, even before our
own, is the history of the Lord in us and through us. For this reason,
our hearts open up to the gratitude toward the "all mighty omnipotent
and good Lord" (Cant. 19), the Father of mercy (Test. Cl. 2), for the
wonders God has fulfilled through many brothers who have proceeded
throughout these 800 years of history.
But at the same time, we do not want and cannot "resign ourselves
praising the work of our predecessors since it is a great shame to us
servants of God, that the saints did the works, but we, by reciting
them, want to receive the glory and honor" (Adm 6). This is the reason
why we want to get inspired by the works of our predecessors so we would
do the part that it is ours in our own history (cf. Sdp 3). We want,
following the invitation of John Paul II, to put our eyes on the future
toward which the spirit impels us to continue doing great things with
us, since we recognize that we don't only have a "glorious history to
remember and to tell, but a great history to build" (VC 110). We want
"to embrace the future with hope" (NMI 1).
In order to do this we can't just look to the sky. Because the future
depends on the choices that we have at the moment and on the how we
would live the "here" and "now," we have "to live the present with
passion" (NMI 1).
To live the present with passion includes:
4. Set off on the Journey
From many parts we receive an apprehensive and on going invitation that
is common to all religious life. The call to set off on the journey; to
follow the way of renovation/re-foundation started by the order in the
last few years feeling constantly as "mendicants of meaning." Today's
times are times of more questions than answers (cf. Cla, No. 121, p.
159) in profound communion with the with the face of the poor who "have
the strength to lead us in our search" (Shc 5).
In moments of transitions, like ours, our eyes might be closed, like the
eyes of the disciples of Emmaus, so we would not see with clarity how we
would wish to respond to the signs of the times through which the Holy
Spirit continues questioning constantly (cf. Sdp 6). It might be that
flooded with so many questions apparently without answers, exhausted for
lots of accumulated tiredness and filled with uncertainty toward the
future (cf. Shc 7), our disappointment would be that big, like the one
Cleophas and his companion had, that would confess, like they did, our
most profound frustration: "We were hoping" (cf. Luke 24:21). In any
case, the important thing is to set off on the journey, like the chapter
reminds us, trusting that the Lord walks with us and leads our steps,
even when at the moment we are not able to recognize it, while we
continue imploring "to the high and glorious God to illumine the
darkness that clouds the heart of the world and the darkness of our own"
(Shc 8; cf. OrSD, 1ss). Only continuing on the journey would assure us
"a better understanding of our own vocation" (Shc 10).
The most important thing at this moment is that we would feel as
"brothers on the journey" and "that we would present ourselves to others
with the truth of our searching, with the truth of our own questions,
with the truth of our own fears and uncertainties" (Cla, No. 121, p.
159). Only by setting ourselves on the journey and with the confidence
that we put in the Lord of history that we would be "undressing
ourselves little by little from the disenchantment as well as from the
superficial pragmatism and the easy ideology so we would live in the
hopeful tension of the Kingdom, a fertile atmosphere of the follow
through" (Shc 9).
In this respect, the necessity of keeping ourselves on the journey, it's
very significant that the final document of the chapter would have as a
title "The Lord Talks to Us on the Journey," and that the terms most
repeated in it are those that make reference to: walking, search,
evaluate, discern. I also think that it is highly significant that the
same final document recognizes that "the biblical passage of the
disciples of Emmaus has guided us as a paradigm of the trip that we
would like to undertake in the different journeys of our world" (Shc 8).
Our condition of "foreigners and pilgrims" will take us to feel that we
are always on the journey, aware, as the poet says, "we create a path as
5. Take on an attitude of conversion
This demands, above all that we take on an attitude of conversion, the
urgency "to born again" (John 3, 3) and to "return" to the first love,
to the love of our youth. The extraordinary general chapter that we just
celebrated has been an urgent and powerful call to live our lives more
profoundly, to live out of faith and from the faith, to return to the
Gospel in order to return to Christ, to re-live the foundational
experience of our fraternity so we would re-identify and re-appropriate
Francis' original intuition. This time of grace that we are living and,
particularly the extraordinary general chapter, in its final document
The Lord Speaks to Us on the Journey"
is asking all of us to center on the essential, to concentrate on the
priorities of our way of life and from there, depart in order to
encounter the people and to live among them as minors.
To live the present with passion with an attitude of conversion demands
that we feel the urgency of "not domesticating the prophetic words of
the Gospel to accommodate them to a comfortable life style" (Sdp 2). It
demands that we listen to the voice of the Lord in the historical events
and detect his presence always working in us (cf. Sdp 6), since we are
completely convinced that this is the only way we can find complete
meaning in our lives and contribute to "give birth to a new epoch" and
to nurture from the inside with the liberating force of the Gospel, our
fragmented, and unequal world starving for meaning" (Sdp 2).
Like Francis, we need to make a stop on the journey, a moratorium; we
need to go in the "grotto" to get away from the tumult of the world for
some time, to go inside ourselves and search in the intimacy of our
heart (cf. 1 Cel 6). Only then, we will listen to the voice of the Lord
that, like the Poverello, asks us: "Friars Minor, where are you going?
Who would be more beneficial, the lord or the servant? Retrace your
steps" (cf. TC 6).
"Go back," to be transformed. We need to be transformed, that's to say,
to believe in the Gospel (cf. Mark 1:15). To believe in the Gospel as
the good news, beautiful as grace and burning as love, that transforms
those who receive it with a heart like a child (cf. Matthew 11:25), who
welcome it with a heart of a poor one (cf. Luke 1:38), who welcome it in
its immediacy, in its freshness, in its radicality, like Francis (cf.
1Cel 22) who from his own weakness and poverty dared to live it. We need
to return to the Gospel to situate ourselves, free and vulnerable,
before it, to allow ourselves to be illuminated and questioned by it.
Only in this way, our life will recuperate the knowledge, the youth and
the poetry of the origins. Only in this way, our life will "scandalize"
and "question" our contemporary ones, just like the life of Francis and
his first companions "scandalized" and "questioned."
6. Set out on a journey of discernment
From this perspective, the centenary summons us also to set out on a
journey of evangelical discernment: "Examine everything," we read in the
text of St. Paul, "and stay with what is good" (1Ts 5, 21); a journey of
discernment to re-found our life and mission upon the essential elements
of our form of life.
The centenary and, particularly the extraordinary general chapter, are a
call to set off on a "on going discernment and an on going evaluation of
our life" (Shc 35). The present is a time of discernment as I said in
the in my report in the chapter. Nothing of what we do or live can
escape such discernment. But there are two aspects of our life that need
to be particularly evaluated: life in community and
Life in fraternity. Aware that common life is one thing and another very
different is life in fraternal communion, although the second implies
the first. Aware also that life in fraternity is a gift that we have to
welcome and celebrate, but also a task that will never end, we need to
put special care on strengthen it as the document "The Lord Speaks to Us
on the Journey" asks us to do. In the first place this effort occurs
when are attentive to some temptations in which we could easily fall.
The temptation to convert diversity, which has to be respected as a
"communication of a God who is always prolific" (Shc 4) into a cause of
division. Against this temptation the chapter asks us to increase our
sense of belonging to a fraternity that, because it's present in the
whole world, is international and intercultural.
It is necessary, then, to overcome provincialism and particularism and
to favor strategies of cooperation among different entities and cultures
(cf. Shc 57) in order to understand, take on and practice the principles
of inculturation and interculturalism (Shc 38). In order to overcome
divisions, which are not uncommon in our own life (Shc 31), it is
necessary to develop a culture of accompaniment of fraternity,
correction, forgiveness and reconciliation (Shc 53); rituals of mutual
forgiveness and paths of communion (Shc 31); processes of reconciliation
and of recovery in fraternity (Shc 51).
But above all, we need to strive for a deep dialogue without
reservations and with total confidence "in the warmth of truth and
faith" (Shc 36), from our poverty, strive for a dialogue that would lead
us to pronounce genuine words that come from the heart with a renewed
language so that we would be able to communicate "without restrictions"
(Shc 17) who we are, what we feel, and what we have. A dialogue that
would allow us to welcome each other, to stimulate mutually, to correct
each other whenever it would be necessary and to love each other at
every moment (Shc 50).
There is the temptation to run away from the fraternity because of
"situations and conflicts that have hurt our mutual trust" (Shc 16),
with the presence of a strong individualism in our life and mission, and
the lack of horizontal faith and trust in our brothers. Against this
temptation, the chapter has been a strong call to "renew the basic and
fundamental" faith in the brothers, to rebuild "the fundamental essence
of the mutual trust" (Shc 16) so we would be in solidarity with the
fortune of each other.
Mission/evangelization. In regards of mission/evangelization, we are
called to "re-found it" and renew it in its forms and structures. We are
in an epoch of change, with different paradigms and completely new
categories. The final document reminds us of this (Shc 33). This obliges
us to "clarity and audacity" in order to carry on a "serious revision of
our mission ... and to develop unknown paths of presence and witness" (Shc
33) that would be more consistent with what our life of Friars Minor
demands. The times that we are living now oblige us to an "on going and
significant revision of our current ministries" (Shc 58), in such a way
that we would be able to "re-find the center of our mission" and, from
it, being able "to embrace ambiguity" and "to host marginality" (Shc 33)
with the presence in situation and places that are "conflictive and
borderline" (Shc 39), creating new spaces and taking on risks that would
give genuine witness of the reality of our vocation and mission, regards
"fraternity-in-mission at the service of the Church and the world" (Shc
With regard of mission/evangelization, we are always called to create a
project of evangelization, which from minority, would unite and
integrate vocation, fraternal life and mission. Only the satisfied
thirst like in the case of the Samaritan woman
the final document of the chapter reminds us
will be a message (cf. Shc 17). But since in the present, evangelization
and mission are going necessarily in the direction of dialogue, we are
called to be "crossers of frontiers" (Shc 36), and from the logic of the
gift (cf. Shc 19-22) and a spirituality of presence, kenosis, harmony
and complete-integration, without excluding anyone and embracing all, go
to encounter the other, with an open attitude in front of the other
without allowing to get trapped in boundaries created by current
ideologies," so only in this way can we be a beacon of hope, a generous
offer of faith and communion" (Shc 37).
In this context likewise it is important to remember that both, the
centenary, in general, and the chapter, in particular, ask us to give
much attention to not give worship to idols of activism and efficiency,
in order to be able to maintain the prophetic character of our life, ask
us that we decentralize from the urgent in order to turn to the
essentials and give Gospel quality to our life.
The journey of the eighth centenary and particularly the chapter that we
just celebrated, are a strong and urgent call to live our life
profoundly, a call to conversion, to live by faith and from faith, to
return to the Gospel in order to return to Christ, to re-live the
fundamental experience of our fraternity with the purpose of
re-identifying and re-appropriating Francis' original intuition. They
are a loud knock to improve our communication, particularly at the level
of faith and vocational experience, to turn to one another, to destroy
barriers and prejudices, to listen to each other, to overcome
provincialism, ethnocentrism, casts and regionalism; to widen our heart
to the world's size.
They are an urgent call to not allow ourselves to get stuck in crisis
and fear, to not imprison ourselves to not reduce our presence to
comfortable and secure spaces of our convents, but to go out; to
des-centralize ourselves in order to re-centralize, to des-locate
ourselves in order to re-locate ourselves, to des-implant in order to
re-implant ourselves, to be itinerants toward ambiguity, the borderline,
periphery; toward the "forgotten cloisters" inhabited by the "lepers" of
Living in this way during this eighth century, we don't run the risk of
celebrating ourselves without living this circumstances as a moment of
grace, as living and provocative memory.
In view of these calls, what would be the response of the brothers of
the Custody of the Holy Land? What would the brothers of the Custody of
the Holy Land be willing to do in the life of our proper vocation, of
life in fraternity and mission? I believe it is urgent to enter in this
climate of conversion and in this atmosphere of discernment on what the
brothers do and how they live. With the love I have for you, allow me to
tell you with honesty: It is not enough to respect the "status quo."
Today's time demand us to search for new answers to new questions. The
social and religious situation in which you live, the arrival in this
land of other institutions and religious movements that were not
presenting until very recently. What is all of this asking us to do?
7. The commissaries of the Holy Land
The stability of the Custody, the necessity to intensifying the works of
protecting of the Holy Places, the demands to provide the sustenance for
those employed in the service of the Custody, the desire to carry out
the missionary action and charitable works, and the opportunity to
sensitize the Western Christians to the problematic situation with the
Churches of the East, These were the causes and reasons for which a
structure emerged, which looks to the relationship between the Custody
and the commissaries. The commissaries of the Holy Land are official
representatives of the Custody present in about 50 countries.
The origin of the commissaries of the Holy Land is very ancient and it
is linked, principally, to the fundraising efforts for the Custody. In
fact, starting from the assurance that neither the life of the friars,
nor the conservation of the Holy Places would be possible without the
offerings of the Christian princess, the first statute of the Custody
(1377) established that the Custody should have the support of one or
two lay people to carry on the administration of the offerings.
But later on, they realized that that was not enough, so the necessity
to come out with the idea of the commissaries of the Holy Land emerged,
which in fact, took place with the Bull "His Quæ" of Pope Martin V (Feb.
24, 1421) entrusting them to collect offerings from the Christians.
Little by little, the role of the commissaries was developing more fully
up to the current legislation of the order that talks about the Custody
and the commissaries of the Holy Land (CCGG 122-125 and EEGG 69-73).
For centuries, the commissaries have been, sort of, embassies that,
often, had a political nature, specially in their task of consciousness
raising and, sometimes and at times pressurizing the Christian
governments to solve difficulties between Catholics and Orthodox in
regard to the Holy Places, without forgetting the mandatory power,
especially the Ottomans.
Today, according to the general statutes (art. 73, 2), the
responsibilities of the commissaries are: To promote in his territory
the knowledge, interest and devotion to the Holy Places, not only among
the lay people but also among the friars using the right means such as
the communication media.
To organize pilgrimages to the Holy Places.
Collect funds for the Holy Places.
Some other responsibilities we can add are: to promote vocations for the
Holy Land, both at the level of candidates and among the brothers
I believe the first responsibility of the commissaries
to promote the knowledge, interest and devotion to the Holy Places
is fundamental. Without responding to this one, all the other ones,
before or after, would collapse. I have the impression that,
particularly among the brothers, and some times even among some
commissaries, the knowledge, the interest and the devotion for the Holy
Places have decreased considerably. This could be one of the reasons,
but not necessarily the only one, why also the number of missionaries
that come from other countries and the economic donations to the Custody
This would take you, as commissaries of the Holy Land, to face a great
challenge. You have to be creative in order to look for ways to promote,
among the brothers, bishops and Catholics your respective territories,
the work that the brothers of the Custody carry on in the different
fields where they work: the care of the 49 sanctuaries entrusted to the
custody of the Franciscans, the pastoral work in favor the Catholics,
not only Latin, of the local Churches, particularly through the 29
parishes entrusted to us; the pastoral work to the Catholics that come
from other continents, particularly those who come from the Philippines,
Latin America, Eastern Europe and Africa; the charitable works that the
Custody carries out, particularly regarding the homes for the low income
people (350 homes); the works that the Custody carries out with the 16
schools that it directs frequented by 10,000 students, not only
Catholic; the editorial works that it carries out thanks to the
Franciscan printing press; the spiritual animation of the pilgrims, to
whom it offers the possibility to welcome in the five Case Nove that are
currently open; the cultural, scientific and pedagogical that carries
out in the Studium Biblicum Franciscanum; the ecumenical activity,
particularly through the Franciscan Pilgrims Office; and the
scientific/cultural works that the Center of Oriental Studies in Cairo
As I said, this work demands of you creativity and presence in the
communication's media. The Custody has to offer you appropriate
material, and then it would be your responsibility to take advantage of
it. And since it is not always easy to reach newspapers and television,
why not creating a webpage of the commissaries of the same conference?
Your second responsibility is to organize pilgrimages. This is an ideal
means, not only to promote and strengthen the knowledge of the Holy
Land, but this is a privileged means to evangelize. My own experience
tells me that a well-prepared and well-organized pilgrimage to the Holy
Land leaves its mark on the pilgrims. It is important to recall that
this is not only a matter to find participants to secure the group, it
is a matter to animate the group spiritually, and this should be
reserved to the commissaries or to a person, if possible, a competent
friar, assigned by them. You cannot be just a religious tourism agency.
To get financial help is very important because without it would be very
difficult for our presence in the Holy Land to be able to respond to the
tasks that our constitutions assigns it: "To watch over the Holy Places,
to promote in them the divine worship, to favor the piety of the
pilgrims, to fulfill the ministry of evangelization, to carry out the
pastoral activity in accordance with the spirituality of the order, to
build and to attend the works of apostolate" (CCGG 123, 1).
But in this field we have to be transparent, both with the Custody and
the provinces and, if it is necessary, with the bishops of the dioceses
in which we collect offerings. The lack of transparency brings about
suspicion and mistrust and at the end we all loose. Therefore, I believe
that it is necessary that the finances of the commissaries of the Holy
Land would be analyzed in the canonical visitation of the respective
province and that the province would know it even when this would imply
changes in the status of the Custody.
Finally, I would ask you to try to stimulate new vocations for the Holy
Land. There is a numerical decrease of vocation from other countries and
there is a numerical decrease in the number of missionaries that come
every year. During the last three years of my service as minister
general, I have given 30 new letters of obedience. They are not enough.
We all have to work to increase vocations in number and in quality
because the necessities increase and every day greater specific
qualifications are demanded.
The Custody of the Holy Land has been and should continue being a
presence that bridges the East and the West, the Eastern Churches and
the Catholic and Latin Church. It is, and should continue being, an
important cultural presence in the Middle East, in the name of the
Catholic Church. There are new challenges that we, Franciscans, face
today in this land so dear to us. We cannot limit ourselves to be mere
passive spectators in a world that changes faster and faster. In many
occasions, during almost eight centuries of presence in land of Jesus,
we have been creators of history in this land. Why shouldn't this
We trust that the Providence, that has brought us to this land, would
continue showing us the new paths that we are call to walk in order to
respond appropriately to the signs of the times and the places. And that
including you commissaries of the Holy Land
that work with much dedication and sacrifice in this beloved field of
the Order of the Friars Minor enter into the climate of conversion and
discernment, keeping always on the journey, to be able, in this way, to
offer new answers to the new questions that are posed for us today.
Fr. José Rodríguez Carballo, OFM