The posters stacked on the floor of the Curia and all of the hustle and bustle by the people present speak to the unrest that can be sensed in the last few days at St. Savior’s Monastery in Jerusalem. Flyers with the number “800” printed with cube characters, the faces of the friars and the famous miniature of the St. Francis’ docking in Acre will soon flutter in front of the shrines, schools and parishes of the Custody. To celebrate the friars’ arrival in the Holy Land 800 years ago, there are several initiatives that have been prepared by the celebration organizing committee. Among these are the informational posters for the important commemoration. “We differentiated the language on the banners according to where they would be sent and then we then sent them to all of the Holy Land Commissariats and to all of the monasteries in Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Egypt, Rhodes, Cyprus, Washington, Italy and Spain,” explained Fr. Narcyz Klimas, Custodial archivist and chairman of the organizing committee. “Since the beginning of the year, we have been thinking about how to celebrate this important anniversary ,” said Fr. Narcyz. And people also began asking questions and getting involved.”
A PILGRIMAGE IN ACRE The friar told us about some of the preparations: “We wanted to begin on May 14 (the date of the Pentecost chapter, where the first Franciscan provinces, including that of the Holy Land, were created), but then we decided to kick off the celebrations with a pilgrimage/excursion on different date.” On June 11, a bus full of friars will depart for Acre. The holy mass presided over by the Father Custos will be the first morning appointment, and then lunch will be offered by the friars, with a short guided tour by Fr. Eugenio Alliata in the district of Acco, where the friars first arrived. At 5 p.m., the concert organized by the Acre School will close up the day.
OCTOBER CELEBRATIONS The culmination of the celebrations will be in mid-October with three special days of conferences and concerts in the presence of Cardinal Sandri, Prefect of the Congregation for Eastern Churches, Fr. Michel Perry, Minister General of the Order of Friars Minor, Fr. Julio César Bunader, Vicar General of the Order, and other figures from the university and religious world.
On October 16, the conference will be dedicated to organizations and institutions that support the many activities of the Custody, while in the afternoon there will be a liturgical ceremony at St. Savior’s presided over by the Order’s General Father, which will kick off the anniversary celebrations.
In the same place, on the morning of October 17, Cardinal Sandri will officiate mass and will continue to the Salon of the Immaculate with a lecture on “The role of Franciscans in the Holy Land.” Other conferences will follow, including one dedicated to the arrival of the first Friars in Acre, one on “Crusader-era Acre” and one on Franciscan memorabilia found in the first monastery on Mount Zion.
On the third day, Wednesday, October 18, the theme of the meeting will be the significance of the frescoes of the Upper Basilica of St. Francis in Assisi, followed by a brief speech on the first Franciscan monasteries in the Middle East. In the afternoon, a mass is planned with the Vicar General of the Order, followed by a concert prepared by the Custody’s Magnificat Music Institute.
OTHER CELEBRATION INITIATIVES The program of celebrations will also include world-class concerts from the Terra Sancta Organ Festival (http://www.tsorganfestival.org/), having as their protagonist Robert Kovács, the Hungarian organist of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra. Kovács will include some songs that refer to the episodes of St. Francis’s life depicted in the Upper Basilica of St. Francis in Assisi, a copy of which will be exhibited at the entrance of the Custodial Curia. The concerts program will be as follows:
– October 17: Tel Aviv-Jaffa, St. Peter’s Church – 6 p.m.
– October 18: Nazareth, Basilica of the Annunciation – 6 p.m.
– October 19: Jerusalem, St. Savior’s Church – 6 p.m.
– October 20: Bethlehem, Church of St. Catherine at the Nativity – 6 p.m.
“With the Christian Media Center, the video and TV arm of the Custody, we are trying to create a documentary with fictional imagery, so as to build a different story from the symbolic places: the Holy Sepulcher, Acre and the Upper Room,” said Fr. Narcyz. Even the Custody’s magazines that are published in six languages will cover the festivities with ad hoc reports or in-depth coverage that will be published continuously throughout the year.
“We are now waiting for some parish priests to engage people with special or dedicated events,” said the friar. In the meantime, the preparations and work of the organizing committee are underway: “We are waiting for the whole program to be confirmed, and then we will also send out invitations to local universities for the conferences. We intend to provide simultaneous translation into English.” Sanctuaries, schools, parishes, magazines: all are working together to celebrate the eighth centenary of Franciscans in the Holy Land.