It was 7 August 1948 when fra Giulio Zanella, as the special attorney of the then Custos of the Holy Land (1937-1949) fra Alberto Gori, purchased the property that is today the Delegation of the Holy Land in Rome.
The history of the building in the last century, even before the arrival of the friars, was not easy at all. Known as the Villa Lancellotti, which took its name from its legitimate owner, Prince Filippo Lancellotti, it even became the headquarters of the Gestapo (1939-1944) during the Second World War. Once the war was over, it was rented by the founder of the Institute of the Oblates of the Ecumenical Missionary Churches, becoming the head office of the International Christian Association “In veritate unitas” (1944-1948).
Immediately after the building, which included the Villa, the fountain and the gardens – now called Casino Massimo or Villa Giustiniani Massimo –, had been purchased, the friars started building the two wings which form the present-day Franciscan convent (1949-1955).
In the light of these events, the Custos of the Holy Land, fra Francesco Patton, accompanied by the Delegate in Italy, fra Francesco Ielpo, the guardian of the fraternity, fra Joseph Kamwashi, as well as other members of the Delegation, presided over the Eucharistic Celebration in the convent chapel giving thanks in commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the foundation.
At the start of the Divine Liturgy, the convent archivist, fra Eduardo Masseo, gave a short historical introduction on the event celebrated, also pointing out the twofold purpose for the foundation of the Delegation: to promote the devotion of the Holy Places with the Italian people and to welcome the friars of the Custody of the Holy Land who continue their higher education in Rome. In the homily, the Custos recalled the work of the friars who have preceded us, inviting those present to remain faithful to the initial aim. During the celebration, fra Giuseppe Ferrari, the previous delegate and guardian for no less than 12 years, who passed away on 14 September 2022, was remembered.
BY: Fra Eduardo Masseo