On 25 June at 11 AM fra Pierbattista Pizzaballa, Custos of the Holy Land, blessed the foundation stone of the Terra Sancta Museum in Jerusalem. The museum project kicked off with a symbolic ceremony at the Lapidarium, an evocative hall which will be part of the coming museum.
Approximately one hundred people were present at the event which took place inside the Convent of the Flagellation in Jerusalem, one of the future sites of the Museum and ‒ as pointed out by the current director of the archaeological museum of the Studium Biblicum Franciscanum, Father Eugenio Alliata ‒ a very important archaeological site in its own right that contains remains from the time of Jesus.
The moving ceremony was performed by Father Pierbattista Pizzaballa, Custos of the Holy Land and President of Association pro Terra Sancta. His signature, along with that of Father Sergio Galdi, was affixed to a symbolic purple parchment, which was then buried in the surface of the floor beneath the foundation stone of the nascent museum.
Speaking at the ceremony were Davide La Cecilia, Consul General of Italy, who informed those present of the generous contribution of the Consulate in support of the project; Javier Parrondo, Deputy Consul of Spain, who also confirmed the future support of Spain; Hervé Magro, Consul General of France; Mustafa Sarnıç, Ambassador of Turkey; Bruno Jans, Consul General of Belgium; and Dorothy Shea, Head of Mission of the U.S. Consulate.
The names of supporters who have already made commitments to the project have been inscribed on a number of slabs of local stone, presently located near the foundation stone and subsequently to be placed in a specific area of the newly-created museum. The fundraising campaign is continuing, directed by Association pro Terra Sancta which is also in charge of carrying out the museum project.
Father Pizzaballa stressed the importance of the project for a city like Jerusalem that has a ‘universal vocation’: here for centuries Muslims, Jews and Christians have lived and shared the same spaces and, at times, the same traditions.
The desire of the Franciscan friars is to preserve, with the aid of the Terra Sancta Museum, the Christian character of Jerusalem as one of the fundamental elements of the universal vocation of the Holy City. The museum will in fact not only be a place where hundreds of objects will displayed – many of which were gifts from the kingdoms of Europe or date back to the Byzantine, Mameluke and Ottoman periods, or from even earlier times; it will also be a dynamic cultural center that will make the public of all religions, as well as the secular public, aware of the links of the Holy City with the centuries-old Christian traditions, both local and international.
The Father Custos went on to say that Jerusalem has always been open to the world, but has also always contained the world within itself: “We are perfectly aware that we are not the only Christians in Jerusalem […]. We hope that in the future the other Churches will join this project, and that one day there will be a network of centers – and not only Christian ones – that will allow visitors, and above all the resident communities, to be inspired by the exceptional nature of Jerusalem”.
Watch a short video of the ceremony: https://youtu.be/XkI2ISmzUFY