07/14/2023, 16.58
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Patriarch Pizzaballa: New Capital of Resurrection centre, a chance for young people

The holy city now has a new sports and cultural facility with an indoor swimming pool, theatre, museum, and multifunctional areas. The Custody of the Holy Land is behind this "crazy" idea, meant for local “young people", both Jews and Arabs. For the patriarch of Jerusalem, investing in young people is not a slogan, but "energy and hope for the whole society.”


Jerusalem (AsiaNews) – “Investing in young people" is not a slogan or a statement of principle, but an idea of mission "that applies here as elsewhere", said His Beatitude Pierbattista Pizzaballa, Patriarch of Jerusalem of the Latins, speaking to AsiaNews. “We must rely on them, and not only because they simply represent the future", but above all because "they have psychological and human energies".

The patriarch is one of the cardinals-designate Pope Francis mentioned on 9 July at the end of the Angelus who will become cardinal in the consistory of 30 September. The prelate spoke at the recent inauguration of the Capital of Resurrection Sports and Cultural Centre in the holy city.

In his address, he said that the centre was, first of all, meant for young Christians, who, in his words, are “are the energy and hope for society as a whole.” The new facility, the brainchild of the Custody of the Holy Land, is another sign of hope and peace in a place far too often marked by tensions, blood and internecine conflicts.

Located at the Terra Sancta High School in the Old City between the New Gate and the Damascus Gate, nestled away among the historic buildings within the large compound preserved and cared for by the Friars Minor.

The inauguration on 3 July saw the presence of various dignitaries, including the Custos of the Holy Land, Fr Francesco Patton, Patriarch Pizzaballa, as well as representatives of the European Union, the French Agency Development (Agence française de développement), and the French consulate, who provided funding for the project.

As its names suggest, the centre is designed to highlight the holy city’s history, religious character, and mission, not to mention the very existence of Christians in Jerusalem, whose community must continue to be alive and bear witness, and not just serve as a museum of the past for pilgrims and tourists.

From this perspective, sport and culture can be a token and a path to promote reconciliation and hope between different groups (Christians, Jews and Muslims), as Fr Ibrahim Faltas, vicar of the Custody of the Holy Land, explained.

The centre has an indoor swimming pool, a theatre, an archaeological museum, an outdoor amphitheatre, and multipurpose training facilities connected to a basketball court on the roof of the building.

All this serves the high school students, Jerusalem residents, both Jews and Arabs, and those who – including pilgrims and tourists – want to practise physical activity or live a "unique experience" in a place rich in "history, archaeology and sport".

Work began in 2021, with the support of the European Union and the French government, as well as what the Friars Minor call the "silent generosity" of benefactors from around the world.

The project takes its cue from the events and teachings contained in the Gospel: the pool is a reminder of the paralytic who is healed and the blind man who regains his eyesight, while the stone walls have each a story to tell as do the churches’ columns on which the faithful lean to find God's support.

"It was a crazy idea that no one believed in,” said Fr Ibrahim Faltas. “When I thought of building a pool here, no one believed me" but in the end it took shape and came to life despite the many archaeological constraints and practical obstacles, "digging up to 15 metres into the ground.”

For Jerusalem’s Old City, it is a “very important" facility, especially “for its young people, because it will take them away from drugs."

During construction, remains of a well and a church from the Byzantine era emerged, and "a small museum, created inside the sports centre houses some of the finds,” Vicar Faitas noted.

Lastly, while “Everyone has suffered the effects of the pandemic, even the people of Bethlehem who rely heavily on tourism,” builders “worked day and night, and this helped us complete the work".  The outcome is a four-storey building that consists of a 16x8-metre swimming pool, a sauna, multipurpose rooms and an outdoor multipurpose field.”

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