“Being a Franciscan today has an added value, a recognition of St. Francis’ prophetic idea. He is the saint who wanted the Franciscans to have a presence in the Holy Land. He gave rise to the the Custody of the Holy Land.”
One year has gone by since the Pietro Kaswalder’s death, on June 18, 2014. The Italian Franciscan priest, in his 35 years of service made a great contribution to the Holy Land through his work as a scholar, archaeologist, professor and passionate biblical tour guide in Jesus’ Land.
“I think his best contribution was his rethinking and reorganization of the tours, led by the Studium Biblicum Franciscanum, which also produced notable publications,” said Fr. Giovanni Claudio Bottini, ofm, Dean Emeritus, Studium Biblicum Franciscanum in Jerusalem.
Fr. Eugenio Alliata, ofm, is Director of the Museum of the Flagellation in Jerusalem. “Fr. Pietro’s most typical contribution to archaeological, historical and biblical sciences on the Holy Land was studying the Bible together with archaeology. Few have the asset of being experts in both fields.”
“I was in the library studying and I saw him continually go by because when he thought of any title that could be helpful to students who were doing their theses with him, he immediately rushed to recommend it to them, and provide it to them; it was precisely this level of attention that he gave to all stages of the students’ course of study,” said Fr. Angelo Garofalo, a visiting professor at Studium Biblicum Franciscanum in Jerusalem.
Brother Franciscan, Fr. Matteo Munari is Secretary at the Studium Biblicum Franciscanum. He said, “From him, I definitely learned about love for the Holy Land, love for these places. Always tried to create a brotherly environment, which would not only allow for the study of the Bible, but it would also allow for living out the brotherhood that the Bible tells us about.”
A professor of Exegesis and a biblical, archaeological and geographical excursion guide, at the Studium Biblicum Franciscanum in Jerusalem, Br. Kaswalder was also actively involved in raising funds for the Holy Land. He became active in restoration at the sanctuaries in Gethsemane and at the Dominus Flevit in Jerusalem and later, also in Capernaum and at the Grotto of the Annunciation in Nazareth.
“He first of all was always thinking in the good of the monuments, and in their restoration. But he was especially thrilled that we would carry out these restorations and this work with locals,” said Carla Benelli from the Pro Terra Sancta Association.
“Life as a journey” is the title of a book dedicated to Br. Pietro, published by Edizioni Terra Santa and edited by Fr. Massimo Pazzini. The text, which was officially presented in recent weeks at the biblical festival of Vicenza, recalls the work done by Kaswalder, but it also shows the many areas of study that his research have left open-ended.
Deacon Pazzini, ofm, shared, “In his computer files, we found many other things, sketches of works that he had already told us about. In particular, he spoke about two works that were underway: a geographical guide to Samaria and Judea and one to the Negev. We are waiting for someone to help us or give us some good suggestions in order to carry out and implement these ideas.”
Fr. Pierbattista Pizzaballa, ofm, Custos of the Holy Land summed it up very well. “His presence was an important gift that has been with us for so many years in so many important areas of the life in the Holy Land and of the Custody of the Holy Land. The message of the holy places is not an abstraction; it is something concrete. But it is also a legacy: the passion that he has passed on to many generations must now become the heritage of many others, who must continue to pursue these projects.”