A group of around 50 journalists from The Holy Land Review, accompanied by Fr. Francesco Patton, OFM, the Custos of the Holy Land, met the Pope for a private audience on Monday, January 17.
The publication of the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land is celebrating its 100th anniversary, and offers news, information, and insights on life in the land of Jesus.
Pope Francis thanked the entire media group—which includes staff from the Christian Media Center and the Custody’s website and social media—for their dedication to the Church’s mission.
“The service you carry out today is in line with the communicative intuition which guided the Custos Ferdinando Diotallevi, and consists—as he wrote in the first edition of the review—in ‘making better known the Holy Land, the Land of God, the cradle of Christianity, the venerable shrines where the Redemption of the human race was fulfilled'.”
Promoting fraternity among all
The Pope said the mission of telling the story of the Holy Land means sharing “the Fifth Gospel”, which is “the historical and geographical environment in which the Word of God was revealed and took on flesh in Jesus of Nazareth, for us and for our salvation.”
It also means telling the story of those who live there now, including Christians of various Churches and denominations, as well as Jews and Muslims.
He added that the journalists’ overall goal should be to help build a “fraternal society” in the difficult and complex social context of the Middle East.
Communication, said the Pope, must help “build community” and fraternity.
“I encourage you to tell the story of fraternity that is possible: The fraternity between Christians of Churches and confessions that are unfortunately still separated, but which in the Holy Land are often already close to unity… Tell of the fraternity that is possible among all the children of Abraham: Jews, Christians, and Muslims. Tell of the ecclesial fraternity that is open to migrants, displaced persons, and refugees, in order to restore to them the dignity of which they were deprived when they had to leave their homeland in search of a future for themselves and their children.”
Telling stories well
Pope Francis went on to thank the staff of The Holy Land Review for “encountering people where and how they are.”
He noted that the journalists show courage by publishing news about suffering and difficult parts of the Middle East—like Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, and Gaza.
Their work, said the Pope, highlights the good being done and active resistance to the evils of war, along with stories of reconciliation, restored dignity, and the hopes and tragedies of refugees.
“Thank you, because to do your work well you have not hesitated to wear out the soles of your shoes, and I know that you will not hesitate to do the same in the future, in order to tell of all this.”
Communicating the message of salvation
The Pope pointed out that first-hand, lived experience is essential to effectively communicate the place where the Word of God manifested His message of salvation.
He said the journalists are called to tell about the Holy Land “where the history and geography of salvation meet and allow us to offer a new reading of the Biblical text, especially the Gospels.
“The Pasqual mystery enlightens and gives meaning to today and the journey of the peoples who now live in that Land, one which is unfortunately marred by wounds and conflict, but which the grace of God always opens to the hope of fraternity and peace.”
Enriching the faith of Christians around the world
Finally, Pope Francis renewed his encouragement for the staff of The Holy Land Review.
He urged them to take wholeheartedly to all forms of media and social media to “enrich the faith of many people, even of those who lack the opportunity to make a pilgrimage to the holy places.”
“This is precious for believers around the world, and at the same time it goes to support the Christians who live in the Land of Jesus,” concluded the Pope. “And I would like to take this opportunity to express to them my closeness. I remember them always in prayer.”