A double feast took place in Emmaus Al-Qubeibeh: On the day when Sts. Simeon and Cleophas are remembered, a new interobediential fraternity was officially born. Comprised of Friars Minor and Conventual Franciscans, the fraternity was introduced during mass on Sunday, September 24, in the presence of the Vicar General of the Friars Minor and of the Conventual Friars, Fr. Julio César Bunader and Fr. Jerzy Norel.
The Custos of Holy Land, Fr. Francesco Patton, presided over the celebration in commemoration of Sts. Simeon and Cleophas, whose evangelical story at the origin of the shrine, was proclaimed. The mayor of Al-Qubeibeh, Hasanen Hammudah, sitting in the front row, was a witness to the good relations between the Custody and the municipality.
In his homily, Fr. Francesco Patton explained the peculiarity of the feast on this year 2017, because of the 150th anniversary of the Franciscan presence at Emmaus and the formation of the new fraternity of Conventual and Friars Minor. The new fraternity will be dedicated to welcoming friars who wish to spend periods of reflection there or those who want to go there for permanent formation.
According to the Gospels, the disciples in Emmaus were incapable of recognizing the resurrection, but Jesus accompanied them on their journey to give them hope and to help their eyes recognize him in the breaking the bread. “It is what can happen to us if we invite him to stay with us and this is the meaning of this new fraternity,” said Fr. Patton. “It is a witness to communion, after 500 years since the painful event that was the division of our order in 1517. It will be a grace for the friars who will come here if they enter into the spirit of this place [and] of the disciples in Emmaus.”
The same vicar general of Conventual friars, Fr. Jerzy Norel, said: “The community in Emmaus came about in the name of Franciscan communion: to live together, to live the same land, to welcome others so that they may live in communion.” Among the words of exultation for the launching of this new project, he defined the new fraternity as “a new creature, a new child.” At the conclusion of the mass, after nominated the friars who will compose [the new fraternity]: Bernard, Dennis, Salem and Joseph, he gave them his wishes for a “good journey.”
The Vicar General of the Friars Minor, Fr. Julio César Bunader, spoke about the fraternity that will live in a new perspective. “500 years since the anniversary of the Ite vos Bull, we wanted to take steps together related to life, fraternity and mission,” he explained. “We chose the Holy Land and Emmaus and it is also the fruit of the work of the Vicars, which has been carried out along with Pierbattista Pizzaballa, up until this day.”
The guardian of the Emmaus fraternity, Fr. Salem, joyfully commented on the event: “As St. Francis said, every friar is a gift from the Lord. So for us, the Conventual friars who will live in the monastery, are a gift.” In addition to Br. Salem, Br. Dennis and Br. Bernard, who were present at mass, and who will settle in Emmaus Al-Qubeibeh, and Br. Joseph, is scheduled to arrive shortly. “I was surprised by the call of the vicar general, who proposed this project to me. It was a novelty, [and] so I immediately accepted it,” said Fr. Dennis. Originally from the Philippines and formerly serving as parochial vicar in Naples, Italy, he will have the opportunity to experience the Holy Land, having never visited it before.
Fr. Bernard, who is originally from Sri Lanka, has traveled a good deal in his life and he has had the opportunity to visit the Holy Land a good bit as well. He was at the Porziuncola in Assisi when he found out that he would be part of the new fraternity in Emmaus. “Several projects will begin, but we are here first and foremost to be witnesses and to be present,” he explained. “They had asked me to serve in the Custody of the Holy Land, but then they assigned me to this project. And I accepted. Men move, God leads them.”
After the mass, the first of the Terra Sancta Organ Festival Fall concerts took place, which included the participation of the organist Yacoub Ghazzawi and the Magnificat vocal ensemble. The Custos of the Holy Land and the friars moved to the upper floor of the monastery for the blessing of the new rooms, which have been restored thanks to the Custody’s Technical Office.
“This new fraternity is born in the mark of these two saints that we celebrated today,” said the Custos. “We ask for the Lord’s blessing.”