We are grateful to the Lord for the fraternal visit of our Father General Miguel Márquez to the Holy Land and to the birthplace of the Order. He arrived on January 19, 2022 and stayed until February 3, the day of his return to Rome. According to the tradition of our Order since the General Chapter of 1632, Father General also has the title of Prior of Mount Carmel. Therefore, a symbolic but significant gesture was the act of obedience by our Carmelite Fathers to their Superior.
He visited the convents of the Carmelite Fathers in Israel, and the places belonging to them ; especially he celebrated the holy Mass in the Wadi, the place of our origins. He visited Patriarch Monsignor Pierbattista Pizzaballa and made a fraternal visit to the four monasteries of the Carmelite nuns. His visit ended on February 2, the feast of the Presentation of Jesus at the temple and the day of Consecrated life. On this day he celebrated the Eucharist with the active religious in Galilee.
Father Miguel agreed to answer a few questions:
Thank you, Father for your availability. Here are some questions that might suggest you to say a word to the Carmelite nuns in the Middle East and North Africa.
- This is your first visit to the Holy Land as Father General, what brings you here in this pandemic moment, without pilgrims; what is your objective?
I always come to the Holy Land as a pilgrim, and this time as a Father General “pilgrim” who wants to walk on the sacred and holy land of his Carmelite brothers and sisters, to hear what pulses within them. I came for the pastoral visit to the brothers of Stella Maris. And, as well, to share with the brothers of Latin Parish and the Carmelites of the four Carmels of the Holy Land. At the same time, the communities of the Carmel family and the lay people who want to walk growing in our spirituality and family.
- Here on Mount Carmel our Order was born; from here it spread to the whole world: a word about our roots, and also how to retour to the source of Elijah and continue to bring this fresh water to the thirsty world…
I think the same question already carries the answer. To arrive to this land is to listen and drink from the sources of our origins, to go back to the roots, to let ourselves be led today by the Spirit to where the Church and the world need us. Drinking and at the same time being channels of what God wants from us and give through us.
- Do you think it is possible to work together, in a synodal style, to write the history of the Order in the Middle East? What would be the steps?
I deeply believe that the future can only be synodal and mutual participation (communion). If we can’t form a family and work together, we’ll be exhausted in a short time. In the Middle East we have to rediscover the humble ability to count on others in intercultural dialogue and committed to the reality of this land. The steps must begin by transmitting to the Order the beauty and necessities to be carmelites in the land of our origins. To value each other , brothers and sisters, and open a dialogue of shared search for the renewal of our lives. Mutual listening. To revalue the need to animate a healthy and living Secular Carmel.
Open a dialogue about forces, weaknesses, projects, etc. In dialogue with the Church and the Religious life of this land.
- The Holy Mother wanted the Fathers and the Sisters to be one family; so far the Fathers are only in the north of Israel. Is it possible to think about recovering a place in Jerusalem?
It’s a dream that some of us have. I include myself in this dream. In the very short term, it doesn’t seem possible. But let’s see… for now we are thinking about consolidating our presence in Stella Maris and Muhraqa as much as possible.
- The Federation of Nuns of the Middle East and North Africa, brings together 7 monasteries from a vast area of Israel, Palestine, Syria, Egypt, Morocco, could you say a word about how to live the synod in the monastery? or what the Spirit blows you…
I have a very special bond with these seven Carmels and I want to return the question to each community. May they together express what they think that could be a synodal path of mutual animation. Without unreal idealism, from the wealth of our poverty. I believe that each community must listen to itself in the openness to listening to others. The Federation is a beautiful challenge to walk in communion in the way Teresa understands friendship. See Life 16.7. ““Desengañarse y ayudarse a crecer.”
- After concluding your visit: what is the main challenge for our Order in this region?
Being a family. Being a community is our first challenge.
Being Carmelites passionate of our vocation and the land we tread.
With greater estability in our presence. People and tasks.
To inculturate our charism in the reality of this land. In particular the language.
Make a serious plan of possible projects to be encouraged and the works to be done in our key historical points, here on Mount Carmel
These are some of the challenges that come to my mind and heart. But I want to continue to listen to what pulses in the hearts of my brothers and sisters, so that we can walk this path together to revive our presence here.
I asked that a priest from Stella Maris be present at the Definitory in March to make known the reality of our presence in the Holy Land and the possible paths for the near future.
On this path of synodality we accept suggestions from brothers and sisters.