Rarely the Jerusalem mosque esplanade has welcomed guests of this type: cardinals, friars, laymen, Christians and others, all lined up to enter one of the most important places of worship in Islam. It happened during the celebrations for the anniversary of the meeting between St. Francis and Sultan Al-Malik Al-Kamil. Carla Benelli, art historian and responsible for cultural projects of the Association pro Terra Sancta, took part in the event and tells us about her emotions: “I was thrilled to see Cardinal Sandri enter with his characteristic clothes surrounded by dozens of Franciscan friars passing under the trees of the Spianata and going to the mosques in front of the astonished glances of the tourists who attended the scene “. The guests were let in by an entrance usually reserved for Muslims: since 2000, in fact, in protest, the Muslim authorities allow tourists to enter from a single entrance to allow visits to the gardens in a limited period of time, but prohibiting entry into the two mosques.
“Seeing all those sandals taken out of the mosque out of respect and the curious and bewitched faces of the mosaics in the Dome of the Rock gave me the feeling of being in history. As a simple witness I can say that I had the impression that today there was an important sign, very Franciscan. I believe that recognizing the value of Islam in those places at this time in Jerusalem is a sign of peace and brings out the will to pass over difficult times “.
Peace and welcome were also discussed in the official speeches that followed the visit to the Al-Aqsa Library. From the words of Cardinal Sandri all the gratitude of the work that the Franciscans for centuries have done through social and cultural works to establish a dialogue with the local community has emerged. Among the cultural actions, together with the Magnificat Institute, also the Mosaic Center was defined as “a precious cultural work, because through the path of beauty it preserves and promotes the dignity of a people”.
“As ATS pro Terra Sancta we are proud to contribute to the message of dialogue that the Custody wants to send,” said Carla. “I was thrilled to hear the words of Cardinal Sandri, because, even if we are a small thing in the face of these events that the Franciscans are able to set up, we contribute in any case to their peaceful action”. The Cardinal also mentioned the Franciscan museum and in particular the pharmacy that will be exhibited in the Terra Sancta Museum of San Salvatore. The pharmacy represents one of the moments, in the 800 years of Franciscan history, in which the friars put themselves more at the service of local communities.
“The fact that the Mosaic Center is remembered at such a significant historical moment shows that we are at the side of the Franciscans and that our path to supporting the Custody in supporting what is openness to others is one of the important keys of our activity “, underlines Carla, who recently also won a prestigious award for her cultural heritage conservation activity. “The Franciscans have given me so many opportunities for growth and I am really grateful, that of being able to operate in the conservation of an extraordinarily important heritage for humanity, but always with an eye to the local communities. The common effort to preserve the stones, but maintaining a living and authentic relationship with the communities that live beyond religious affiliation is a non-trivial and common act and the Franciscans started it many years ago. ”