Sylvester Kuli, SDB

November 12 2019 - STS - Jerusalem Qumran and Masada are well-known places in Israel which locals and tourists, Jewish and people of all traditions, visit for archaeological, historical, cultural or religious reasons. Like them, and even for us, the excursion that we did on November 12th was an occasion for finding connections between what we learnt and what we saw. In fact, the visit gave us a different perspective of the sites, their historical background, and the strong values lived and transmitted from the Jews ancestors.

Qumran is an archaeological site known for the Dead Sea Scrolls, found in 1947 by Muhammed adh-Dhib when he was looking for his lost goat near Wadi Qumran. Discovered in jars dating from the third Century BCE to the first century CE, it is said that the scrolls were hidden from the Roman soldiers’ attack. The manuscripts contain three kinds of text: Biblical texts, non-biblical texts connected to the Bible, and non-biblical texts connected to the rule of the community and to the way they lived. Some have even hazarded about a secret gospel, which tells the “hidden truth” about Christ. The visit and explanations have showed us that there are no mysteries nor secrets in Qumran but, most probably, some financial speculations.

Like Qumran, Masada is a significant place too, an ancient fortification on the mountain where Herod the Great built two palaces for himself and where, at the end of the First Jewish–Roman War, the rebels hid from the imperial soldiers when Jerusalem was destroyed in 70 AD. It happened that the legionaries attacked the insurgents. After a long siege, on the night before the Romans captured them, Eleazer Ben Yair gave the choice to the Jewish people whether to be killed or to be enslaved by the armies or, instead, to kill themselves. Massive suicide was the option chosen. This act, reinterpreted as patriotism, is, together with the site, today’s symbol of national pride. Beyond the remains of palaces, kitchens, baths and other buildings, the place is a symbol of the struggle for freedom and a memorial of the Jewish duty in preserving their way of life and passing it down from the elders to the younger generations.

Fr Piotr explains at Qumran where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found.
Climbing up to Masada with Fr Piotr
The group at Masada


Octorber 28 2019 - STS - Jerusalem On October 28, 2019, more than 100 Christians, Jews, and Muslims attended the Conference on “Ecological Behaviour in Jerusalem”, intended to engage religious leaders and community members in discussing and promoting environment-friendly practices.

As for previous similar initiatives and also for this occasion, the STS contributed with its sound presence for a more successful achievement of the event.

Even recognizing that in many societies the priorities must be to eliminate extreme poverty and to promote the social development of their people, to acknowledge the ongoing air pollution, the declining availability of fresh water, or the desertification and contamination of the soil, cannot be undervalued. In this task, religious institutions have the potential to empower faculty and staff to teach faith and ecological behaviour, and to prepare more eco-friendly religious leaders.

The full-working day, organized in a plenary session one “Religion and ecological behaviour—perspectives from religious figures,” a second session of “Big thoughts… little talks” on ecological behaviour and religion, two practical workshops, and an outdoor experiential education session, was made even more pleasant by an assorted vegan lunch.

A link to the Symposium can be found here:

To view photo highlights of the event, click here:

A short article about the event can be read here:

Photos courtesy of Debbi Cooper Photography

Religion and ecological behavior—perspectives from religious figures
Listening with a vision
Discussing during lunch break
Five "S" of Br Steve
Thinking together


Br. Joshua Sciullo SDB

Octorber 24 2019 - STS - Jerusalem On October 24th, during our second Archaeological Trip, we went to En Gedi, the biggest oasis in Israel, and visited three places there.

The first natural place we stayed at was the Dudim Cave or the Lover’s cave, also known as David’s Cave, a small and intimate cavern at the head of the David Waterfall in which we had a short talk by Fr. Piotr Zelazko, our guide. He explained to us that this cave is traditionally known to be the place where David hid from Saul, and had cut his cape as proof of goodwill toward the king. Additionally, we were told that this is the cave which is referenced in the Song of Songs. It was a beautiful and cool place which was a welcomed change to the intense heat of the sun.

The second place we visited was the Chalcolithic temple, the ruins of an over 5,000 years old place of worship which attracted the faithful from the surrounding area. This place was impressive as the sheer age of it, and that there was evidence of terraces and water. Moreover, we were told that the copper vessels from this period found there reflected that of a sacred place; in that it did not have common things found in towns. From this part of the mountain we saw the desert below, and the Dead Sea before us. I was not surprised that people came to worship here, as it forced me to look beyond myself and to look toward God.

After we rested for a moment, we hiked down the mountain toward the third and last place we visited. This site is known as the Old Synagogue, which is dated the 3rd century C.E. In the centre there is a beautiful mosaic, which has some phrases in Hebrew and Aramaic. This particular synagogue, we were told, had a Greek influence, which was evidence of the zodiac signs in the middle. Additionally, we walked through the old village, which had been opened for the public a mere two weeks ago. Lastly, we saw a Calotropis procera tree after leaving the village, which fruit is known as the Sodom apple. The apples look like as if they were fit to be eaten, but instead are empty on the inside.

To conclude, it can be said that this trip was great, because of the great natural sights and the importance of the archaeological sites. We left the desert around noon, tired but satisfied.

One of the ascents for experienced hikers only
Explanations at the Chalcolithic temple
An intimate talk at Dudim Cave
A hiking trail for good walkers
Visiting the old synagogue built in the 3rd century CE


October 19 2019 - STS - Jerusalem The Opening Ceremony of the new Academic Year 2019-2020 of the Studium Theologicum Salesianum, in conjunction with the Dies Academicus, took place on Saturday 19th October 2019. The celebration began with the Holy Mass presided by the Apostolic Administrator of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa OFM. In his homily, His Excellency thanked the Salesian’s contribution to the local Church, enriched in recent years by the moving of the Theological Study Centre to Jerusalem. With English as the medium of communication, he added, the STS filled a very serious gap in the local community. Finally, His Grace underlined that growing in the knowledge of Christ is not only a matter of academic formation, but it also involves communion with God, listening to His Word and obedience, prayer and spiritual experience. (The whole homily can be found here:

After the Mass the academic community gathered in the Don Bosco Hall for the opening ceremony. Words of welcome were given by the Principal of the STS, Fr. Gustavo Cavagnari SDB, who also introduced the topic of the lectio magistralis. Next, Bro. Nelson Mwale SDB gave voice to the speech written by the Dean of the Faculty, Fr. Damasio Medeiros SDB, present for the occasion. After a short salutation given by Archbishop Pizzaballa, Fr. Matthew Coutinho SDB presented the fellow students who had received the highest marks in the year 2017-2018, namely Bro. Parfait Balma M.Afr. from the 3rd year, Bro. Calvin Akunga M.Afr. from the 2nd year, and Bros. Matteo Vignola SDB and Gianluca Villa SDB from the 1st year. The first part of the gathering concluded with the presentations of the new students made by Fr. Samuel Obu SDB and that of the new staff members given by Fr. Andrzej Toczyski SDB.

The highlight of the day was the lectio magistralis of Mgr. Charles Scicluna, Archbishop of Malta and President of the Special College within the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to hear appeals in processes concerning the delicta graviora. After an introductory speech given by Fr. Stanislaus Swamikannu SDB, His Excellency presented his conference entitled: “Priestly Ministry and the Prevention of Sexual Misconduct. Orientations for Candidates to the Priesthood”. In his lecture, he focused on the magisterium of the last Popes and on the need of a correct and balanced formation of future priests who are explicitly called to embrace ecclesiastical celibacy. In this sense, the chief guest invited presbyters and candidates to rediscover the motives for celibacy, to prudently guard this evangelical counsel with the contribution of natural and supernatural means, and to cultivate a series of human qualities in order to develop a mature personality. He specially challenged the audience to give the greatest attention to the theme of the protection of minors and vulnerable adults, reminding also the Church’s general provisions with regard to the more grave crimes which include sex abuse cases. His Grace’s address was followed by a short Q&A session, moderated by Fr. Swamikannu.

The Registrar of the STS, Sr. Angela Ridout SJA, gave the final words of thanks and conducted the presentation of gifts to the main guests. Finally, an apostolic blessing was imparted by the Apostolic Nuncio to Israel and to Cyprus, Mgr. Leopoldo Girelli.

The whole morning concluded with the official photo session. (Some other pictures of the event can be found here:

Holy Mass presided by H.E. Mgr. Pierbattista Pizzaballa OFM
Opening Ceremony guided by Dn. Rodil Lladones SDB
Short salutation given by Archbishop Pizzaballa
Words of welcome given by the Principal of the STS, Fr. Gustavo Cavagnari SDB
Presentations of the new students made by Fr. Samuel Obu SDB
Lectio magistralis delivered by H.E. Mgr. Charles Scicluna
Community Choral performance
Presentation of gifts to the Dean of the Faculty, Fr. Damasio Medeiros SDB
Apostolic blessing imparted by the Apostolic Nuncio, Mgr. Leopoldo Girelli
Group picture


Francesco Avesio SDB and Diego Borbolla SDB

September 20 2019 - STS - Jerusalem On September 20, 2019, the yearly series of the archaeological excursions began with a study trip to Jaffa, Caesarea Maritima and the Mount Carmel. The guide of our visit was the STS Professor of Christian Archaeology, Geography and History, Fr. Piotr Zelazko.

The student body departed from Ratisbonne Monastery to the beautiful sight of Jaffa. Here we could visit the area of the Old City. Coming down from the Abrasha Park, the highest point of the place, we visited the Ramses II’s Gate and the excavated ruins of a brick wall of an Egyptian fortress, and walking up again to Kedumim Square, we reached St. Peter’s church and monastery, built in honour of the Apostle who, according to Acts 9, here performed the miracle of the resurrection of Tabitha.

After that, we went towards the archaeological site of Caesarea Maritima, also known as Caesarea Palestinae, the Roman capital of the Province of Judea at the time of Jesus and a Crusader fortress along the road from Acre to Jerusalem. The place, containing ancient ruins dating back to Romans, Byzantines, Crusaders and Ottomans, is noted by the “place of hearing,” located near Herod’s palace and where the Pauline episode narrated in Acts 25 happened.

After lunch in the Caesarea National Park, the group moved lastly to Mount Carmel, visiting el-Muhraqa, the Holy Place associated with 1 Kgs. 18, and enjoyed the panoramic view of the plain of Jezreel from the Discalced Carmelite Monastery roof.

The visit, finishing in the late afternoon, was an appropriate moment to introduce the students to another new academic year.

Jaffa - Abrasha Park
Jaffa - The Wishing Bridge
Caesarea Maritima
Deir Al-Mukhraqa Carmelite Monastery


September 10 2019 - STS - Jerusalem On the morning of Monday, September 10, 2019, the new students of the STS, Jerusalem Campus of the Faculty of Theology of the Salesian Pontifical University, gathered at the Academic Suite for their first induction session. After a moment for introducing each other, Sr. Angela, the STS Registrar, and Fr. Gustavo Cavagnari, the STS Principal, presented some information about the Faculty, the Bachelor’s programme of studies, the annual calendar, the 1st-year timetable, and other administrative aspects. Next, a group photo session preceded the Diplomas’ presentations by Fr. Andrzej Toczyski and Fr. Gustavo himself.

On September 11, the enrolment of the new students took place. Fr. Jaroslaw Rochowiak, the UPS General Secretary, was present for the occasion. The same day in the afternoon, the students had their first topographical visit to the Holy Sepulchre, led by our dear and highly qualified Fr. Leopold Vonck.

On September 12, the new students concluded their induction programme having an introduction to “Living in Israel,” an interesting and fruitful talk about this – still unknown to them – country, under the guidance of Dr. Marcie Lenk.

As they continue to settle into their new surroundings, the new alumni will surely continue to look back and remember this day’s indications throughout their already started studies.

New Students of STS 2019-2020
Fr. Andrzej Toczyski gave some information about the Diploma in Biblical Geography and History.