Dear Brothers in the Episcopate,
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:
How good it is we are here! How we feel happy, we feel like at Home, next to the Holy Virgin Mary!
And how good for us to be together, helping each other with our prayers, imitating each other with our virtues!
I sincerely give thanks for the kind invitation of His Excellency Bishop Antonio Marto, and of all the organizers of this great pilgrimage!
We come from all over the world to honor the Blessed Virgin, to make an act of reparation to Her Immaculate Heart and to console the Heart of Her beloved Son, Jesus Christ Our Lord.
1. Fatima. A mystery of love, innocence, and holiness.
It is good and fruitful for us to come to Fatima. It reminds us, among other things, that when God works and intervenes, He chooses simple people, simple places, plain language.
So did He at the outset of the Redemption, when chose Mary, St. Joseph, the Shepherds…
So did He to elect the poor house of Nazareth, the Bethlehem manger... the path to exile.
So did He dialoguing in a very clear and objective way through the Angel of the Annunciation.
He also wants us to be simple!
Here in Fatima He chose three very innocent children, Lucia, Jacinta and Francisco, and an oak-tree in a bare field.
He chose the plain language of Mary, of the Angel and of Jesus himself.
We need so much the message of Fatima!
We have an urgent need that our youngsters listen to the voice of the innocent Francisco, who increasingly wanted to love Jesus, and wipe His tears.
We need that the grown-ups think and act like little Jacinta, this angel from heaven, which in her infancy acted with the seriousness of those who believe that the salvation of the soul, of our souls, is the main issue to which we should devote ourselves.
We need that everyone in all parts of the world, consecrate - each according to his specific vocation, as did Sister Lucia - his whole life to incorporate, transmit and propagate the message of Christ, the message of love and reconciliation, and the calling and invitation of Mary at Fatima.
Mary’s summons is very opportune and timely. And the world, in danger of spiritual ruin, will not find peace and grace, if it does not strive to put into practice what the Virgin Mary asked here.
2. The Virgin of Fatima was born in Palestine and from there began her itinerant life...
From Nazareth – where she will begin to be the Mother of the Incarnate Word - "The full of God", the full of grace, goes in haste to Ain Karem to share this gracious favour in her service of piety and charity.
We meet her soon in Bethlehem - where the faithful world (the shepherds) and the heathen populations (the wise men) contemplate the fruit of her virginal womb.
Therefrom she, not unlike the millions of refugees in the Middle East and Africa, will take refuge in Egypt, protecting the Son of her virginal womb and growing in the virginal love with St. Joseph.
Afterwards, she returns to Nazareth... accompanies her Son to Cana – where she anticipates the Hour of the Lord, asking Him for a miracle.
Then she goes with Her Son to Capernaum... and will join Him in his Way of the Cross... and in his grave.
And so she will assist and be associated with the Mystical Body of her Son, the Church... She was present in the Upper Room until the coming of Pentecost... Her presence was enough to reassure the disciples...
She never stopped, and always followed and follows the lives of her children.
Thus, throughout history, she appeared in Pilar and Guadeloupe... She just wanted to manifest herself here, to sanctify and consecrate this place with her presence and appearance.
Today, following in the footsteps of this beloved pilgrim Mother, I come to Fatima, and bring with me the whole Christian community of Jerusalem to join you in the devotion to Our Lady.
It is Mary who unites us in Christ. She makes stronger the vigorous bond that exists between Fatima in Portugal and Jerusalem in the Holy Land.
A sanctuary leads us naturally to the other. We, living in the Holy Land, feel attracted to all places where the Mother of God wants to continue to help mankind.
You cannot stop thinking of the places where Mary was born, lived, suffered and was raised to heaven. I invite you also to make and have this experience of Mary´s presence, journeying to Her Land. I will wait for you all with great pleasure!
There are many Marian shrines in the world, but She is only one, and teaches us to seek true unity in faith in Her Son and in true charity.
To Mary it‘s not difficult to present Herself with various garments and different colors of skin. She is not afraid to speak in different languages.
Let us look around us... we came from many parts. We are from different cultures... However, nobody feels alien or strange near to Mary... and together we form one family, a loving family, a family seeking love, peace, health and tranquility.
So it is and so it should be.
As the Scripture says: “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! “(Ps 133, 1)
3. Our Lady of Fatima calls us to conversion, to change of mind and heart.
And so she calls us to confession of sins, to pray and sacrifice ourselves for the salvation of all.
The message of Fatima is a message coming from the Virgin Mother at the foot of the Cross. Yes! From Her Son’s Golgotha, and from her own Golgotha too, she calls us to conversion. It´s a bittersweet message, both pleasant and painful, because on one hand we contemplate her loving motherhood, that fills us with consolation, but on the other we cannot help but reflect upon the significance of Her Son’s death: his Calvary, his sufferings, and also the sorrows of the Virgin herself ... and the motive of all these sufferings: the salvation of mankind, our salvation.
If the Blessed Virgin wanted to come here and call us to conversion, it is because the world is in danger. And not only concerning its material dimension, but its main aspect: all the men and women of the world, each and every one of the inhabitants of the planet earth, are in danger of eternal damnation. Erase or expunge this aspect of the message of Fatima, and the apparition and message of Our Lady will be meaningless.
We´ve just finished the Holy Week celebrations. The impressive supplication of Jesus nailed to the Cross on Golgotha in Jerusalem was also repeated in this holy place, "What are you doing?” - asked the Angel to the little Shepherds, who were playing during the siesta -” What are you doing? Pray, pray very much! [...] Make of everything you can a sacrifice, and offer it to God as an act of reparation for the sins by which He is offended, and in supplication for the conversion of sinners.”
Christ is our peace. He purchased peace for us with the price of his Blood and his prayers and supplications - “He was heard because of his humility" (Heb 5, 7-8).
In Fatima, Heaven also asks us that we may sacrifice and pray for peace: “You will thus draw down peace upon your country" - said the Angel to the little Shepherds.
And the Blessed Virgin, soon after asking them if they were willing to suffer for the conversion of sinners, tells them: “Pray the Rosary every day, in order to obtain peace for the world, and the end of war."
4. Dear brothers. How much hatred in the world! How many crimes and how much violence! How much blood is spilled in the filthy altars of idols!
Whom can we turn to? To Christ – as Mary taught us at Cana: "Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it." (Jn 2, 1-11).
What to do? Pray the Rosary every day; confess; offer sacrifices of everything we can; live in charity.
We have many challenges, but we are not alone. Christ assured us that He would be with us “always, even unto the end of the world.” (Mt 28, 20); besides, we have each other to help ourselves, to imitate each other in the good deeds, and associate ourselves in spreading the Gospel values.
This year, in the Church, we will consider deeply over the issue and reality of family in the forthcoming Synod of Bishops, called by Pope Francisco for October, and that has as its theme: "Challenges of family."
We must reflect upon the family unity; the unity of international family – which includes all nations and peoples of the world; also the unity of the ecclesial family – in the beautiful diversity of its vocations.
But, above all, let us think and work for the human family; for that family established by the Creator to be the basis and foundation of society - the family based on the indissoluble marriage between a man and a woman, and created to be a source of mutual love and generous fruitfulness.
Let us pray for the fruits of the Synod, for all the families of the world, so that everyone can experience the love of God, manifested within households.
Let us also pray for those who, unfortunately, for various reasons suffer in their family conditions and circumstances. May they persist and not lose their faith or hope in God.
The family strength in the East could, in some aspects, serve and act as a stimulus to many serious realities occurring in the West, and show that it is not impossible to live and have a sound family life: love and family ties experienced in Eastern homes are very strong indeed: so much so that nursing homes have no users! Because families do not want to abandon their elderly! We have large families ... and so arises Marian devotion, with a positive result of many priestly vocations.
5. Another challenge is peace.
There are many problems in the world and particularly in the Middle East: serious political problems - systems and entire governments that fail to restore the continuity and peaceful coexistence; religious fanaticisms – either of some Islamist groups or of some groups of Jewish extremists; there are the Israeli military checkpoints, which prevent the free movement of Arab inhabitants of the Holy Land and of the Arab world for their places of worship and areas where their families live; there are hundreds of thousands of refugees - people who have lost everything: house, car, job, land... their dignity... There is war here and there... and rumors of wars and strikes across Europe. May the compassionate Lord have mercy on us!
What to do? I don’t know the definitive answer to all these problems.
But I do know that we can pray for peace; every day, especially in the holy Mass and in the recitation of the Rosary.
Yes! We can pray for peace and also to work for justice and human dignity. Justice is the natural foundation of peace, indeed. And peace either is just or is not true peace.
And if we sacrifice or give up justice and human dignity in order to have safety, we lose both things: peace and security.
In the Holy Land there are many walls that separate families, parishes, land; but worse than the concrete walls are the walls raised in the heart of man: the entrenched injustices; racial and religious hatred; ambition and selfishness adopted as law; distrust, brute force and arrogance everywhere…
Yes indeed, the walls raised in the heart are invisible, but they are worse than the visible ones. And we must strive for the collapse and overthrow of these walls. And then ... well ... here we must return to prayer, asking Him who “brake down the middle wall of partition, having abolished in the flesh the enmity“ (Eph 2, 14) and the division of men, to give us the grace of breaking down the walls that separate us.
That’s why the message of Fatima, message of conversion and prayer, is particularly effective to promote and open the path of peace in the Holy Land and throughout the Middle East.
6. You know that Pope Francisco, within a few days, will visit the Holy Land.
He will travel as a pilgrim of peace and as a guest of the Christian community in Jerusalem. This community wants to live forever as the first Christian community, united in charity, persistent in the sacraments and prayer. The little flock of Christ in the Holy Land - only 2 % of the population - wants to be faithful to Christ.
Let us pray for the fruits of the Holy Father’s pilgrimage and imitate his example. Come also you in pilgrimage to the Holy Land, come to strengthen your faith and better understand your roots!
I’ll receive you with great pleasure at the Patriarchate, but don’t come all together!
It is my desire too that all bishops of the world, associated with their diocesan conditions and realities, feel co-responsible for communities, for the progress and the pastoral life of the Church in the Holy Land. Christians of the Middle East, these living stones of the Body of Christ, are a common heritage that we must all keep safe and preserve. In this regard, I express my gratitude to all benefactors and, in particular, to the members of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem.
- Today, with you, I feel like a part of a family. We all feel like a family. My wish is that when you come to Jerusalem, your Mother Church, you also feel at home.
Unites us our faith and the love of Mary Immaculate.
This present day should be an unforgettable day in our lives, a date and period that splits in two our personal history: life before and life after this pilgrimage; life that starts just now, from today onwards. My wish is that you return home younger and happier, full of faith and love for the Lord, for his Mother and his Church.
† Fouad Twal
Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem