Fr. Pizzaballa, Franciscan Custos of the Holy Land, Address to Pope Francis, May 26, 2014

Most Holy Father,

For us and for the Holy Land Church, represented here by the Catholic Ordinaries of the Holy Land and the Patriarchs of the Eastern Churches, it is a great joy to be here with you in this holy place, witness to the ardent desire of Jesus to love his own until the end. This site saw the accomplishment of all of God’s promises and no infidelity of man, no fear, not even our betrayal can prevent his Covenant from being completely fulfilled, all the way down to the depths where his Spirit dwells in us, and we dwell in him.

The chronicles tell us that the Cenacle was purchased to be given to the Franciscans in 1333; the friars go to the Holy Sepulchre for solemn celebration of the sung mass and the Divine Office. Saint Francis’s openness to missionary evangelization led the friars to the Land of our redemption, and the Church confirmed our mission as guardians of the Holy Places.

As you can see, there is no basilica here to protect the place where Jesus celebrated his final Pascua, where he prayed for his own, where – resurrected – he appeared to bestow Peace, where the Spirit descended on the Apostles as they were united in prayer with the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Although an exception has been made today, the Eucharist is not celebrated here in this room where Jesus broke the bread and had his disciples drink from the chalice of the new wine, giving them the mission to repeat his own words and gestures, making his presence among us real for all time.

This site is one of the most wounded in all the Holy Land, witness to the many wounds of the people who live here. But we want to believe that these wounds have a real and mysterious connection to the stigmata of the Passion with which the Resurrected Jesus, here in this place, appeared to his own. We want to believe that this connection is as real and mysterious as the peace that Jesus gave us and left to us, that Peace that is Jesus himself, the Lord who conquered evil and death. 

Most Holy Father, we, the Church, want to protect these wounds. But together we want to hold on tenaciously to the joyful confidence of Easter: confidence in the humility of God in the poor and simple style of his Kingdom, with the patience of the grain of wheat. This place holds us, in a sense, to little steps. It takes us back to what is essential; it makes us live humbly, with confidence in the truth. It invites us to believe that this is the only possible way to sow and build communion and friendship, even if communion and friendship have been refused for centuries.

Here and now, with you, we want more than ever to believe that nothing is impossible for God.

And we want to act in this belief for this land and for the entire world, for this Church and for the entire Church, a sign of fraternity and communion, a sacrament of unity.

The one, undivided Church that was born here makes our hearts echo with a new commandment, the special mark of servants of Christ our Lord.

Today’s ceremony at the Holy Sepulchre brought us together and the dream on the unity of Churches, of which the Cenacle is a symbol, seems closer and more tangible; we exult in it.

In union with all the peoples of this land, at the end of this pilgrimage we present to you our most affection and sincere gratitude for the exalted witness of peace and unity that you gave us, and we assure you of our constant and sincere prayer here and in all the Sites of the Redemption.

Thank you.