Communicating the Holy Land in an innovative manner while offering modern services that keep pace with the times as a means of evangelization: this is the ultimate objective of the new developments in the technological sphere promoted by the Franciscan Brothers, Guardians of the Holy Places. To offer to pilgrims and friends of the Holy Land the most up-to-date information on the sanctuaries, on the activities of the Custody of the Holy Land and on the life of Christians living there, and to reach out not only to adults and elderly people, but also to young people through modern and interactive applications on iPhone, iPad and BlackBerry.
Father Silvio De La Fuente, the Custodial Secretary and the person in charge of the project tells us how the need arose for innovation and communication of age-old traditions.
Father Silvio: The Custody of the Holy Land is working on a new site, on applications for iPhone, iPad and BlackBerry. How did the idea of communicating the Holy Land in a new manner come about?
The idea was born in response to a need, that of offering to pilgrims and others interested in the Holy Land a wider range of information than has up to now been available. The initiative to create a new site for the Custody of the Holy Land, and at the same time an application for iPhone, iPad and BlackBerry, grew out of a need that we as Franciscan Brothers perceived: that of transmitting the Holy Land in a manner that was both direct and adapted to today’s world.
Who will be interested, and who will be able to access, the information on Christians in the Holy Land, on the Holy Places and on the activities of the Custody of the Holy Land?
We noticed that in recent years www.custodia.org, the official site of the Custody of the Holy Land, has been visited above all by pilgrims, that is, by those who have been in the Holy Land and for this reason have a particular attachment to these places and to the Franciscans. In the future we want useful and interesting information also to be available for people who have not yet had the possibility to visit the Holy Land: both those who for whatever reason have not had the possibility, as well as those not interested in making a visit. The new tools will provide an additional stimulus to get to know Jesus and to encourage ever more people to visit the Holy Land. One of the novelties of the new applications will be modules for celebrating the Votive Masses in the Holy Land, that is, for praying as we pray here, remembering the memories of the prophets who aren’t part of the liturgical calendar of the Universal Church.
What innovations will there be in the new site?
We have strived for maximum simplicity, in order that people can easily find information. There will be a section devoted to “about us”, to the history of the Franciscans and information on their presence here today. This is an extremely important section, because the history of the Franciscan presence in the Holy Land is a particularly rich one: in order to find a constant element in this land throughout the course of centuries, one need look no further than the history of the Brothers. One will be able to learn how we Brothers live our day-to-day lives, how our schools and library function, about the services we offer to the population and to pilgrims. Another section will be dedicated to the sanctuaries, with virtual guided tours, maps, three-dimensional models, photographs both old and new in order to show the changes, stories from pilgrims in centuries past. We have also prepared a “pilgrimage” area, with all the necessary information for people who want to independently visit the Holy Land, and to put them in contact with our Brothers, for those who wish to visit us: this is something we particularly want to encourage. The area “vocations”, on the other hand, will be designed for those who want to gain experience or to better get to know the Franciscan Brothers of the Holy Land, while the section “Support Us” will show, in concrete terms, how contributions are being spent.
Will there be many videos and pictures?
Most definitely, this is one of the most important innovations of the new site and of the applications: videos, photos and news about both the Franciscans and their projects, in order to better communicate, and in a direct manner, what the Christian community does and to tell of the many wonderful things that happen in this land, which often are not publicized. We will also have a “gadget” section, aimed at children: for example, they will be able to download crèches and color in the figures.
Will it be possible to make virtual visits of the sanctuaries?
Yes, this will be possible either by accessing the site from a computer or by downloading on a mobile device an application to be launched in the very near future: the approach will be immediate, you will be able to visit the Holy Places with your Iphone in hand and find all the necessary information, with all the reference points to understand the structure of the church and to know the liturgy.
And there will be interactive applications…
There will be the possibility to virtually light a candle for the purpose of sharing a prayer with one’s own contacts: this can be done either via the Internet site or on one’s own Iphone or BlackBerry. In general, the applications that we are launching on Iphone and Ipad are very interactive and will allow one to be kept constantly up-to-date on what is going on in the Holy Land.
The Breviary pro Terra Sancta right on your BlackBerry (December 2010)
Communicating the Holy Land online – a master lecture for the friars of the Custody (October 2010)
The Holy Land on Iphone and Ipad (October 2010)
Support the Holy Sites and the Christian presence in the Holy Land!
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