As part of the celebrations of the 800th anniversary of the pilgrimage of peace by St Francis of Assisi in the Middle East, the Custos of the Holy Land, Fr. Francesco Patton with Fr. Marcelo Cichinelli, coordinator of the Commissaries of the Holy Land, visited Colombia, taking part in a number of pastoral and academic events prepared by the Commissariat of the Holy Land in Colombia and the Universidad Franciscana de San Buenaventura.
The commemorative events started on 16th September with the meeting with H.E. Monsignor Luis Mariano Montemayor, Apostolic Nuncio in Colombia, thus confirming the collaboration of the Colombian Church with the Holy Places. During the days in Colombia, the Custos also met the two Franciscan provincials of Colombia, Fr. Héctor Eduardo Lugo Garcíaof the province of Santa Fe and Fr. Nelson Tovar Alarcónof San Pablo and President of the UCLAF (Union of Latin American Franciscan Conferences), taking the opportunity to thank them for the initiatives taken in the country for the Commissariat and in favour of pilgrimages, extending the invitation to the various bodies to support a joint effort that is for the benefit for everyone.
In the afternoon, at the University of San Buenaventura in Bogota, Fr. Patton gave a lecture”1219-2019, Francis and the Sultan: from enemies to brothers”, emphasizing how dialogue, for the Franciscans, is an instrument for meeting and for peace. The first day of his visit to Colombia ended with the celebration of the Eucharist and meeting the young friars of the houses of San Bernardino and San José in Bogota, who Father Francesco invited to continue to answer the call of the Lord in service, closeness and in dialogue.
The second stage of the visit of the Custos in Colombia was the port city of Cartagena de Indias. This city is famous for its colonial history and for having held, amongst its many treasures, the body of San Pedro Claver, the champion of the freedom of slaves in Latin America. The Custos of the Holy land celebrated the Holy Mass of the feast of the stigmata of St Francis here at the Franciscan parish church of San Sebastián deCalle Real de Tenera. The next day, the celebration of the Eucharist with students and lecturers from the University of San Bonaventura marked the start of the day, followed by another lecture given in the Auditorium of the University of San Bonaventura in Cartagena. The visit to Cartagena then came to an end with his meeting the brothers of the Secular Franciscan Order (OFS) of St Martha and the Vice Minister and the members of the National OFS Council of Colombia.
The visit to the Commissariat of the Holy land in Colombia, located in the convent of Purísima, close to the church of San Francisco el Grande, in the center of Bogota, was important. The ancient chapel of the True Cross bears witness to the centuries-old presence of the Holy Land in the popular devotion of Colombian Catholics. In a special way, the Custos wanted to offer the relics of the Holy Sepulchre and of Mount Calvary to the poorest inhabitants of the streets of the Colombian capital through the Franciscan Foundation “Callejeros de la Misericordia” which is close to the needy. During the celebration of the Eucharist in the main shrine of the archdiocese of Bogota, Santa Maria de Monserrat, the Custos of the Holy Land laid a relic of the Holy House of Nazareth at the foot of the statue of “Cristo Caído”, so that the faithful who visit the shrine can have a small piece of stone sanctified by the mystery of the Incarnation of the Word of God and by the life of Jesus of Nazareth with his Mother, Most Holy Mary.
The Commissariat of the Holy Land also scheduled other academic, pastoral and fraternal events in the city of Cartagena, where the friars have a seat of the Universidad de San Buenaventura and in the parish of San Sebastián deCalle Real de Ternera.