The faithful "from Asia and Russia" are "fueling" the presence in the Holy Land, a phenomenon that "obliges guides and tourists to update themselves."
Lately there has been "a significant increase" in the
number of pilgrims, so that " there are no rooms" in hotels and hostels
This is what Msgr. Pierbattista Pizzaballa, Apostolic
Administrator of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem tells AsiaNews,
with his thoughts already turned to the upcoming Christmas
"In these days - adds the prelate - I am meditating on the
homily of the Mass. I would like to appeal to people to return to the
Gospel, to look to Christ to rediscover our fraternity, and as such be
able to help each other in our time common need".
Recounting the boom of pilgrims from the Asian continent and the
Russian Confederation, the apostolic administrator and former Custos of
the Holy Land says that " different cultural approaches are emerging"
compared to those of traditional flows from Europe and North America.
"The Chinese, Indonesians– he adds - are pilgrims who really want to
pray, who devote much of their time to the sanctuaries, the
celebrations". In addition, they "adapt to everything", they do not
disdain "smaller hotels" which provide for "more opportunities for
interaction and discussion with the local community."
For these new generation pilgrims, says the prelate, "Jerusalem and the
Holy Land are first of all the land of Jesus" and the choice to make a
journey there "is almost exclusively for religious reasons". In
contrast, the economic crisis, fears of attacks and violence, "which
perhaps represent the main element", have contributed to "a gradual and
steady decline" of visits from the Old Continent, the United States and
Canada. "But I want to strongly emphasize - he adds - that pilgrims are
On 24 June the former custodian of the Holy Land was appointed Apostolic Administrator of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem,
following the resignation of the Patriarch Fouad Twal who had reached
retirement age. The 51 year old new archbishop received episcopal
consecration on 10 September in the cathedral of Bergamo, in Italy, his
diocese of origin.
Born in Cologno al Serio, near Bergamo, April 21, 1965, he has worked in
the Holy Land since 1999 and, in May 2004, he was elected Custos. On 22
March 2010, he was appointed for a second term. In 2013 was again
elected for another three years. This mission came to an end in April
2016. A fine connoisseur of Jewish culture, he also taught Biblical
Hebrew at the Franciscan Faculty of Biblical and Archaeological Sciences
in Jerusalem and has good relations with many prominent Israeli Jewish
Reflecting on the recently concluded Jubilee Year, Mgr. Pizzaballa
recalled "the many events liturgical and educational" on the subject of
mercy. The message that unfolded during the Holy Year, resonated now
more than ever in Israel, in Palestine and throughout the Middle East
today: "All of our injuries – he explains - divisions, religious and
family must be resolved in the interests of justice, but there is no
justice without mercy. "
The apostolic administrator invites the faithful to "start afresh from
the Gospel", to " to look to Christ to rediscover our fraternity". The
peace message contained in the New Testament "is two thousand years old"
and is "always true: this need to always return, to find support and
feel ourselves part of a community of believers."
Meanwhile the journey of preparation ahead of the festive season
continues. "There is talk of decorations, fairs but there is an
underlying sadness – says Msgr. Pizzaballa – over the tragic events in Cairo, Jordan [added to these the murder of the Russian ambassador in Turkey and the attack in Germany,
ed] and there is a strong desire to show solidarity with the victims.
These facts are of concern, but people also long to celebrate the
holiday. Children await gifts, families are busy with preparations, they
meet in schools, in homes, share the stories of their preparations,
among the faithful there is a desire to come together, to fully enjoy
the event. "
This is not a time "grand gestures", the archbishop says, but of
"small ones, initiatives in the parishes, homes, among youth, within the
community and of spending time together". The advent of the birth of
Jesus "unites the Christian churches", not only patriarchs and bishops
"but parishes, communities, villages." A drawing closer of the various
Christian communities of the Holy Land that " has been accelerated by
The Archbishop’s last thoughts are for these first months as head of the
Church of the Holy Land: "I have met so many ecclesial realities - says
Msgr. Pizzaballa - some already known to me and others that are new
ones, I visited religious communities and absorbed so much strength, I
observed realities that are full of wounds, but also many people who are
completely committed". This, he concludes, is the real "reason for
hope: when I meet people with so many problems, but for whom these
hardships and obstacles are part of the journey, then all is not lost."