Parish News

Advent/Christmas, 2018

I must begin by mentioning the restoration of the Nativity Scene at Sancta Maria. This magnificent crib was built by the Franciscans from Assisi in the 1930s under the tutelage of the famous Italian architect Barnabiti. It opens with the novena on the 16th December and there is a constant flow of people. The children love it. It brings back fond memories also for their parents and grandparents. In January Br. Ayman Battish ofm came to help prepare and baptise and administer the sacraments to an Iraqi family. What a joy to see the parents and children receive the fullness of the faith. We were blessed with the arrival of a new Nuncio, Archbishop Savio Hon Tai. He has been very supportive and the parish enjoyed his simplicity and encouragement when he came accompanied by our beloved archbishop Sebastianos. In Jerusalem in March we had an extremely successful Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation conference attended by Cardinal Turkson. The Custos asked me to attend the welcome of the Bulgarian prime minister at the presidential palace. The Israeli’s prime minister’s wife informed that she was very familiar with Franciscan art, so we sent her the book on the treasures of the Custody. Br. Javier Ignacio Jubal Lazo, our cheerful young friar from Chile came to help us at Easter. His Franciscan joy is contagious. After our own ceremonies at Sancta Maria we went to the local Orthodox Church. Father Thanos the parish priest invited us u to the sanctuary. It is good that we have such warm and brotherly relationships. We were able to provide Father Fanourios an archimandrite with French lessons, kindly given by Miss Sandie Allen. He is going to study in Switzerland. She continues to give free Greek lessons at St. Francis’ friary at three levels throughout the winter. The free Italian lessons have ceased at St. Francis and the class has found more suitable accommodation in an Institute. We thank Mr. Filippo Italo for the many years he has served as teacher and librarian. In April I accompanied Fr. Mario Hadchiti to give a conference on Laudato Si to the Poor Clares in Jerusalem and Nazareth. In May I accompanied Father Giorgio Vigna to give a conference on Laudato Si to the postulants at Monte Falco and the novices in La Verna. The hospitality in both friaries was superb. The Italian Ambassador came to Leros to open the new Italian Cultural Centre. There are still many refugees, many of whom are children, on this small beautiful island. The Ambassador was wonderful with them and it was a delight. Initially they thought I was the Imam! The Nuncio asked us to take Sr, Megali for a week’s holiday in Rhodes. She was in service at the Nunciature. We enjoyed her company and she ours. We were pleased to receive Msgr. Peroni the Vice-Master of Papal Ceremonies again this year. He came with Don Fausto. They are both such a blessing to the parish and so very willing to help in any way. It is through the Msgr. That we have so many young priests from Bresia who give pastoral service on Kos each summer. Prince William of England came to visit the Holy Sepulchre. It was a pleasure to guide him round having lived there for six years as the Cantor. He was very simple and very personable. We prayed for his Mother’s soul in the tomb and on Calvary. May she rest in peace. The twelve diaconal and one priestly ordination in Nazareth were spectacular and a great witness to the growth of the Custody. In July Msgr. Antoine Camilleri came for a few days. He is the Deputy foreign minister at the Holy See. What a pleasant and charming man he is. We were edified by his presence. The Italian military sailing ship came to Kos this year. What a wonderful spectacle she made in the harbour of Kos. We met all the civil, military and ecclesial authorities in Kos. On a sad note, Msgr. Massimo Catterin, the secretary of the Nunciature has left for Brazil. We will miss him. He was a great support after the earthquake in Kos and in many other ways. In August Fr. Fadi Shaluffi ofm came for a few days and then made his way to Mount Athos. The Custos made his Canonical Visit, which was a moment of fraternal sharing. The parish enjoyed his visit as much as we did. We spent over an hour with our beloved Greek Orthodox archbishop Kirilos. He studied in Austria and were thus able to converse together in German. (The Custos being from Trento which was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire speaks German). He affirmed us in our mission. He came the day after the Assumption and reintroduced us to the “Transitus Mariæ” which s well worth reading. We spent a day on Kos. The church is still out of use following the earthquake. All the plans for the restoration are completed. The finance has been assured by the Custody, we await only the licence to proceed. When, I ask will that ever arrive?!! It was a great joy to be present at the First Vows of our novices in La Verna, and then to see the postulants receive the Franciscan habit in Monte Falco. God is good to us; in all we have 120 friars in formation, from Aspirants to those in Solemn Vows. Two-thirds are young friars who are members of the Custody. We met on Mount Nebo for the discretorium. I have not visited there for over 20 years. The Church is magnificent; so light and spacious, so pleasing to the eye in its simplicity. We also visited Terra Sancta College. This place too has grown and places there are much sought after, seeing as it provides such an excellent education. The Music Festival took place at the end of September until the Feast of St. Francis. Mr. Christos brought is choir from Athens. What a treat for our Seraphic Father’s feast. This year the Greek Orthodox Archbishop Kirilos and the assistant Bishop, also called Kirilos came. The Lutheran pastors sing in the various choirs during the festival so we can say it is very much an œcumenical occasion. Father Emmanuel Sklevakis, the Greek Orthodox Archbishop’s secretary and our great friend is at all the concerts. He has been such a help to us over the years, as has Mrs. Mary Papandreou without whom we would have never been able to establish such good relationships, civil and ecclesial. The visit of the Minister General, Father Michael Antony Perry with his council was an occasion of fraternal joy. The council are wonderful each one just right for the job. The laughter and fraternal sharing was a tonic. Perhaps the saddest episode of the year was the death of Adrianna Abalos, a Filippina aged just 21, killed by a reckless driver on her way to work on Kos. Then only five months after this tragic event her mother Violeta Abalos died of cancer leaving her husband Armando and her son Alex bereft. Mother and daughter now lay together in the cemetery in Kos awaiting to rise in glory on the last day. May His Kingdom come! Please pray for them. Doni Ferrari, her brother Don Pier-Angelo and a family friend Evi came on a visit. Doni has always been such a supportive friend to our mission over the years. We were so glad to have them and enjoy their company. Guests bring so many blessings. Where would we be without the voluntary workers in the parish and the many volunteers who come to us each year offering their skills and time. The Minister General of the Secular Order of Franciscans (OFS), Brother Tibor Kauser came to receive the Temporary Vows of the new members in Rhodes, the OFS in Rhodes was re-opened with the Custos’ blessing after more than fifty years lying dormant. Atillio Galimberti and his wife Rosa have been so helpful and supportive in developing the new group. .Msgr. Marco Formica from the Nunciature in Jerusalem came for a few days. He was so helpful and so easy going. What a very pleasant visitor to have. In November the Rev. Bror came with a party from the Head quarters of the Finish Evangelical Lutheran Church from Helsinki. We enjoy such good relations with the Lutherans, Swedish, Danish and Finish, all of whom bring food for the poor as well as the Finish organist Margaret playing the organ for all the Catholic Liturgies. In November I accompanied the Custos as his secretary to our friary in Washington DC. Oh what a wonderful friary it is and what a beautiful magnificent Church, lovingly restored by Father Larry. We enjoyed such great hospitality and fraternal sharing. Their commitment to the ecology in particular in the wonderful grounds is outstanding, more about that later. We visited the State Department and the Holy Sepulchre exhibition in the Smithsonian Museum. Well worth a visit! It is so realistic. Our beloved Father Anthony, the Commissary of Malta promised us a statue of St. Anthony for St. Francis’ church and it has arrived. It is wonderful; we are so grateful. We had two priests from the Fraternity of St. Peter making a retreat. Despite the rain, they really enjoyed themselves. The Congress for the Commissaries of the Holy Land took place at St. Saviour’s in Jerusalem, opened by Cardinal Sandri. It was a huge success and we all learned so much. During the Congress we celebrated the First Sunday of Advent in Bethlehem. Brother Javier Ignacio Jubal Lazo ofm became an acolyte. As the Custos noted in his homily: “Acolyte is a Greek word, which has a very beautiful meaning, because it means "the one who follows. He said to him: receiving the gift of this service, it calls to mind that it is an invitation to follow more closely Jesus the priest, the One who offers Himself and gives His life for our love. The heart of this service is not only in participating in a liturgical choreography, but moreover to follow Jesus and to be gradually become conformed to Him”. Let that be a Christmas prayer for all of us that we grow ever closer to the Christ Child.