IV. Finding Christ, dead and risen, in the Holy Sepulchre
The work of the Franciscans in the Holy Land and, especially, in the Holy Sepulchre, in addition to preserving the property and use of the Basilica, has been to celebrate Christian worship in the Sanctuaries, to give a biblical-archaeological foundation to the Holy Places through the illustration of the Holy Land, archaeological excavations, carried out by the Franciscan Biblical Study, and to serve local Christians with the creation of parishes, schools, social centres. To this must be added the welcoming of pilgrims so that Christians, of all nations, can find here the roots of their faith. Pope John XXIII said it in 1960:
“We know well to what extent should be attributed to the vigilance of your religious if the faithful, who go on a pious pilgrimage to the Holy Places, can still kiss the sacrosanct vestiges of Our Lord with mercy and love.”
For John Paul II, the work well done by the Franciscans is also manifested in the “welcoming of pilgrims”, “giving the faithful of these places, and those who go to them on a devout pilgrimage, a testimony of love and adherence to Christ, Redeemer of man ».
Franciscans and pilgrims. The difficulties to make the pilgrimage to the Holy Land have been immense. The pilgrim who went to Jerusalem, unarmed, practically entered a war zone. But the faith of the pilgrims was such that nothing and no one prevented them from reaching the heart of Jerusalem, overcoming the obstacles set by the authorities and the difficulties of the Muslim environment. The Franciscans illustrated to the pilgrims’ respect for the Muslim religion, insisting on the need for the pilgrim to be a man of peace, because here they do not come to wage war, but to meet Christ. They asked them to be respectful to others, but careful with their things, and not to be naive. Above all, the friars give the pilgrims practical advice to make a good pilgrimage: it is not the time for controversy, but silence and prayer. The pilgrim comes to imitate Jesus, that is why he has to behave with the humility of the Master. The pious pilgrim, after his long and difficult journey, wants to “touch” the footprints of Christ, embodied in Calvary and in the Empty Tomb of the Saviour; He wants to adore God who has given Himself for us, who has shed His last drop of blood in His Passion and who shows Himself glorious in His Resurrection: for us, for our salvation.