The inauguration of the Library and the Archives of the Custody: culture at the forefront

On Thursday 28 February the inaugural ceremony for the General Library and the Historical Archives of the Custody of the Holy Land took place. Attendees were also able to admire the splendid volumes from the exhibition “Books of the Holy Land. A journey among the ancient books of the General Library of the Custody of the Holy Land in Jerusalem”.

In his address, after thanking all the parties involved in carrying out the studies, the cataloguing and the design of the new facilities, Pierbattista Pizzaballa, the Father Custos of the Holy Land, noted that: “An integral part of our mission is promoting the dignity of man, of each and every person. This means not only creating opportunities for employment and supporting the poor, but also providing everyone with access to knowledge and culture: the schools, the Magnificat, the Studium Biblicum Franciscanum, the libraries and the archives, with their respective publications, are not simply a cultural reality in their own right, unrelated to the efforts to assist the poor and the various activities of a social character. On the contrary these need to be considered as inherently linked.”

Edoardo Barbieri, Professor of Bibliography, who is also Director of the European Center for the Study of Books, Publishing and Libraries at the Catholic University of Milan and coordinator for the project “Books, Bridges of Peace” – supported by ATS pro Terra Sancta – spoke of the important role the Library can play in terms of promoting openness and dialogue. He emphasized that “While this has served, and will continue to serve, to document all of the Custody’s activities, it is also the library where the friars can come to study. Moreover, the library is a treasure trove of ancient, rare and specialized sources. This allows us to envisage yet another use, alongside the first, without diminishing this, a use aimed not so much at the Custody but for the outside world, an opening to the Israeli and international reality of the studies of Italian language, literature and culture and not only this, for the world of university and scholarly research, for experts on history from different disciplines ranging from theology to philosophy, from the sciences to the humanities. We are dealing with a heritage that we have only begun to enhance and one which I believe can make an essential contribution to the identity of this library, making it truly a place of encounter, of interchange, and of awareness among the various identities present in the city of Jerusalem and the surrounding area.

The project “Books, Bridges of Peace”, whose objective is that of enhancing the great library and cultural heritage of the Custody of the Holy Land, has been implemented over the past year through the unceasing efforts of ATS pro Terra Sancta. This has involved the participation of numerous researchers and cataloguers and a Civilian Service volunteer, many of whom were present at the inauguration, and profited from the valuable work of volunteers from the Associazione Romano Gelmini who transferred all of the books from the old site to the new one.