STUDY TRIP TO EILAT

It doesn’t happen every day... it’s hard to convey in one page the beauty of the experience we had together, right at the end of the semester of classes. Southern Israel was still an unexplored land for many of us until recently. Three days were enough to let this corner of the earth, made up of history and nature, into our lives.

We set off on Sunday morning, leaving the mild climate of Jerusalem for the decidedly hotter one of the Negev. The first great fortune we had was to have a guide who is deeply in love with this area of Israel, with its desert, its sea, its history and people. Fr. Piotr was waiting for us at his home, in the parish of the Hebrew-speaking Christian community, in Beersheba. It was from there that we left for our first destination: the archaeological site of Tamar, in the Arava valley, whose layers speak of a history that began in the period of the First Temple (10th century BC) and survived until the Arab period (7th century AD). Accompanying us along the ancient ruins was Yoanan, a young boy who calls this place “home” and whose voice reveals a great passion for archaeology and Bible history. After all, living here, on the edge of the desert, with one’s family cannot be explained otherwise.

It is often thought that a bus trip consists of successive stages, between which nothing interesting happens or is seen. Nothing could be further from the truth in our case. Road 90, which accompanied us to the far south, cuts through the Arava and then the Negev desert and is a perfect observatory for this unique landscape, made up of a plain surrounded by mountains that go from the ochre of sand, to the silver of rock, to the red of copper. Copper! The same mineral that had already attracted ancient civilizations 6000 years ago, also attracted us there, to the mines of Timna. Here, from the marriage between wind and water came to light an incredible scenery, where the red earth takes on the most impressive forms, from the bizarre and giant mushroom to the elegant and majestic arches and pillars of a temple. Evening came and morning followed, the first day.

It does not seem inappropriate to use the same formula here as in the creation story. What we experienced was a real journey through the beauties of creation that are concentrated in this small piece of land. The second day of our adventure was dedicated entirely to the sea and its life. The coral reef of the Red Sea is a unique and precious spectacle and you don’t have to be a diver to witness it. A visit to the Underwater Observatory Marine Park in Eilat kept us busy and “underwater” all morning. Of the many attractions here, two deserved our full attention: an underwater glass-walled chamber and a large
pool with a name as fascinating as it is disquieting: the “shark pool”. Corals and fish of all varieties awakened in us that sense of admiration and meditation on the wonders of creation, which became even more real in the afternoon, thanks to the snorkelling experience. Mask and snorkel and then two hours in the water, spent looking closely at the colours of the fish that we had only seen through the glass in the morning. No sharks, fortunately: those are best seen only in a pool and from a distance! A good dinner at the hotel and a long night’s rest gave us back the energy that the sea had demanded as the price for so much beauty. And so, ready for the third day, we set off on the road back home. Leaving Eilat, a few kilometres away, more animals awaited us in the Wildlife Reserve of Hai Bar Yotvata: no more fish and corals, but ostriches, oryxes, addaxes, gazelles and ibexes. A short safari in this desert area brought us close to these curious creatures, who wanted to get closer to the bus to “see us a bit more closely.” Once again, an immersion in nature, a prelude to the spectacle that was waiting for us... in Makhtesh Ramon. A crater of 40 x 9 km in a red and arid land that gives the impression of having landed on another planet. The view of this landscape from the village of Mitzpè Ramon was as breathtaking as the story the museum tells: that of Ylan Ramon, the first Israeli astronaut to give his life on a space journey. All that remained was to conclude with a salute to the true “masters” of the Negev, those men and women who proved that life in the desert is possible: the Nabateans. Today, the city of Mamshit is in ruins, but it gives a glimpse of the splendour of a civilization that knew how to organize its existence to adapt to these scenarios. The signs of Christianity are also present here, in the two churches built when the inhabitants of this and other villages in the Negev became Christian, Byzantine. It is difficult to forget the harmony of these buildings, whose colour and elegance seem to have risen from the desert with almost no effort, naturally.

And so, with eyes full of all this beauty, we returned to Jerusalem, grateful to Fr. Andrzej for having conceived this great project for us and to Fr. Piotr for the passion with which he made it come true.

- Matteo Vignola, SDB

May 14, 2021

THE THIRD ARCHAEOLOGICAL EXCURSION

On the 16th of March, the STS students effected their third archaeological excursion of the year. This time we went to visit the remains of the monasteries of our Fathers in faith, namely the monks who lived in the Judean Desert between the 5th and 7th AD. Indeed, Monastic life is mainly about prayer. Monks isolate themselves from the world. We landed first at Male Adummin where the Monastery of Saint Martyrius is situated. He was its founder. In the 5th century, he came from Egypt and settled there as a hermit and his monastic life attracted many people. The remains show that there were quite number of monks living in the monastery. Later on, he was made Patriarch of Jerusalem. Signs show that it was probably the biggest walled monastery in the Judean desert. Its specificity is that the monks were living a common life. I could see the ruins of their chapel, refectory and small rooms. They collected water from the rain and kept it in a cistern.

Next, we visited St. Euthymius’ monastery. The saint was born in Armenia and at the age of 29, came to the Holy Land for a pilgrimage. He fell in love with the Holy Land and decided to establish a monastery here. The Monks were living separately and only came together to pray. After his death, they came together for a common life. This monastery was destroyed in the 12th century. What struck me there is the cistern built outside the monastery. It is huge.

The third place we visited was the Good Samaritan Inn. I saw beautiful mosaics from the Byzantine Period. According to tradition, it is the place where the Good Samaritan helped the injured person. Jesus would have used this road on his way to Jerusalem. St. Georges Koziba and St. Gerasimos’ monasteries belong to the Greek Orthodox Church. There are still monks living there today. It was amazing to see those isolated monasteries in the desert. Unfortunately, St. Georges’ monastery was closed and we were unable to enter. According to tradition, the Prophet Elijah lived in one of the caves there because Ahaz, the king of Israel, wanted to kill him. We also visited St. Gerasimos’ monastery and its beautiful Church decorated with icons. I also saw the remains of human bones of the monks who were massacred.

Finally, we went to the burial place of the Prophet Moses, according to Muslim tradition. I had a wonderful moment in the desert, discovering and learning a lot from the life of the monks in the Judean desert. The “heart to heart” relation with God was central in their daily life.

- Isac Kinda M.Afr.

March 16, 2021

INTRODUCTION OF STUDENT COLUMN

On behalf of all the Students of Studium Theologicum Salesianum (STS), I, as the Student representative, would like to welcome you to the new STUDENTS' COLUMN on our Website.
 
The Students’ Column has been essentially created as a safe space for STS students to share some of their ongoing theological reflections with other like-minded people around the globe, from an empirical and contextualized perspective in accordance with Catholic teachings. Thus, the Holy Land, and in particularly Jerusalem, becomes an ideal and enabling environment to enhance such reflection as we journey through our four years of theological studies.
 
This column will hopefully provide readers with diverse and enriching theological reflections on ancient, medieval, modern, contemporary, cultural, doctrinal and ethical issues as far as the discourse of theology is concerned. Our multicultural and multinational context is an amazing symbol of strength which gives rise to mutual respect, co-existence and co-responsibility, as we play our respective roles as students of the mother of all sciences – Theology. It is my hope that this column will provide you with some of the many facets of theological scholarship as you continue your life’s pilgrimage.

-Cornelius Robert U-Sayee SDB

March 1, 2021

STS DAY 2021

This was indeed a day that will now definitely find its place in the history of Studium
Theologicum Salesianum, Jerusalem Campus. The event had been preceded by a bundle of
uncertainties, confusions and ambiguities as to how the event would turn out, but the planning and
organizing committee had done their preparatory job so well in foreseeing a day that would be set
apart from the regular and monotonous theological classes. They looked for a day that would be
fully packed with jubilation, exuberance and lively presentation of various cultures from different
continents. The beauty of the College rests in its variety and diversity of different cultures, of
different ethnicities, of different values and mentalities, but all united as one in Christ. Hence, this
diversity had to find its way to express itself through the hidden talents of the students who were
looking for a suitable platform. And that wonderful day it was!

Truly an unforgettable day, 1 st of March, 2021, the very first “STS DAY” was celebrated
with much enthusiasm. The day brought to reality the vision of our efficient and creative Principal,
Fr. Andrzej Toczyski and the excellent administration of Sr. Angela, the Registrar of our college.
We certainly cannot forget the whole-hearted cooperation and decision of the Academic Council to
allow this programme to take place. They deserve our appreciation. For the event, everyone came
with his or her very special costume in different colours and style. One could obviously notice how
each one felt connected to his or her own specific culture and country. The audience cherished and
appreciated what they witnessed, the performers on the stage were enthused by the energy and
ambient created by the audience and the organizers. The countenance of everyone was lit with a
glow of sheer joy and happiness. The experience shall remain etched in the memory lane of every
student.

The programme commenced with a beautiful prayer led by Deacon Lenny, followed by an
apt welcome speech delivered by the student representative, Br. Cornelius. After this, the
programme kick-started with events one after another, such as singing, dance, music, drama and
video presentations of various cultures from different countries. Every performance and
presentation had depth and creativity in it and so, the audience was kept enthralled and animated
throughout programme. The guests, professors and students did not realize that they sat at a stretch
for almost two hours. This proved that the event that looked initially uncertain was such a great
success. The programme ended with a vote of thanks, given by the Principal of STS.

But that was not the end! The Principal, along with his core team, had arranged a sumptuous
buffet for all the guests, professors and students. All enjoyed the lunch and fellowship with a sense
of joy and accomplishment. The day came to a happy end with volleyball and basketball games.
Practically all the students participated and the professors were around cheering the players.
The investment made for such a day never goes unproductive. To the students, it gave rise
to a definitive and certain future of hopes, initiatives and dreams.

-Robinson Gigh sdb

March 1 , 2021

THE SECOND ARCHAEOLOGICAL EXCURSION

“Alas! The glory of Israel, slain upon your heights! How can the warriors have fallen!” (2 Sam 1:19)

With these poetic words, found in the second part of the book of Samuel, King David mourns the death of
his king Saul and his good friend Jonathan whose tragic death occurred on the mountain of Gilboa. The
echo of these words accompanied our group of STS students who, last Thursday February 25th, around the
same geographical area, visited the Crusader fortress of Belvoir and the wonderful complex of
Bet'Shean, an ancient city whose walls saw the lifeless body of the wretched King Saul.
On a wonderful sunny day, our first destination was the crusader fortress of Belvoir known as "the star of
the Jordan" due to the shape of its construction and its ideal strategic position. It was Gilbert of Assailly,
the Grand Master of the Knights Hospitaller, who began the construction of the grandiose fortress in
1168. With the fall of the Crusader kingdom, the fortress was destroyed and fell into disuse. Nevertheless,
it remains to this day the best preserved Crusader fortress in the whole of Israel. From the fortress, we all
enjoyed the wonderful view of the valley, up to the sea of Galilee and the mountains of the Jordan
Kingdom.

In the second part of the day, after visiting the fortress of Belvoir we enjoyed a visit to the ruins of the
wonderful Roman city of Scythopolis where the ancient city of Bet She'an was located. This is perhaps
one of the best preserved architectural complexes of the Roman period in Israel. The visit of the theatre
and the bath houses, the walk on streets guarded with Corinthian columns, and the wonderful view from
the tel, is a truly unique experience that speaks of the glory and splendour of a bygone time.
As a conclusion, we can say that the day was marked by an admirable spirit of fraternity among the
students and a deep desire to discover the legacy of antiquity. Due to the richness and beauty of the places
visited, the excursion left an excellent impression on us all. Belvoir and Bet Sh'ean are certainly two
places that are highly recommended to visit in Holy Land. For this opportunity that enriched our
experience and our love for the Land, all the students are very grateful.

- Diego Borbolla Jiménez SDB

February 25, 2021

OPENING OF THE SECOND SEMESTER

Dear Professors Students and Friends, Greetings to you all!

Today, as we open the second semester of the Academic Year 2020-21, each of us is
eagerly waiting to return to our classrooms, to the library, even to the corridors,
usually so full of life, especially during the 10.20 coffee break.

We all know that the first semester was unusual in many ways, but
providentially, we were able to complete it successfully. However, it would seem that
the uncertainty is not yet over. That is why the short clip we have just watched,
inspires in us amazing energy and emotions to begin and continue our mission in the
2 nd Semester, with patience and prudence.

My gratitude is extended to all the Professors who were teaching at the STS in
the 1 st semester 2020-2021.  I would like to welcome the new Professors who will be
teaching with us in the 2 nd Semester: Sr Anna Maria Sgaramella, Fr. George Phiri, Fr.
Wim Collin, Fr. Wojciech Stabryla and last but not least, our former Principal, Fr.
Gustavo Cavagnari.

Unfortunately, we must temporarily continue the hybrid mode of teaching with
Professors and the resident students in class and the non-resident students online.
Hopefully, after one or maybe two weeks, we will be able continue our theological
journey together, on the campus.

Besides the regular classes, I trust that the main events of the 2 nd Semester, such as the
Topographical Visits, the Archeological Excursions, the Cultural Day, the STS
Tournament, the Study Trips to Galilee and Jordan and especially the Final Exams,
will all be accomplished according to the schedule you have already received.

Moreover, we have other projects to continue. After the process of the Self-Evaluation
of our Faculty, we need to revise carefully our Curriculum and Diploma Programmes.
Already the restructuring of our Website, including various platforms for the
Professors’ and Students’ theological essays and projects, is underway. Eventually,
perhaps, we will even be able to launch our own Theological Journal: The R.T.R. (The
Ratisbonne Theological Review).

All these initiatives aim at fostering theological reflection and the expression of our
active presence in the privileged context in which we live and study: The Holy Land!
In fact, we need to engage in open theological thinking to make Catholic Theology
alive and relevant for ourselves and for others.

Be assured we are not alone in these endeavors - we are an integral part of the
Salesian Pontifical University. In fact, in a few moments, the new Dean of the Faculty
of Theology, Rev. Fr. Antonio Escudero Cabello, will address us, direct from Rome.

Finally, we are delighted to have as our Chief Guest today, His Eminence
Cardinal Michael Fitzgerald who will deliver a conference that I am convinced will
encourage us to plant seeds of Hope in every social, geographical, and historical
circumstance. Like farmers dependent on soil and weather conditions - beyond their
control – we need to plant the seeds of hope and water them trustingly, confident that
in due time, God will make them grow.

Rev. Andrzej Toczyski, SDB

February 1, 2021

NEW PUBLICATIONS – DECEMBER 2020

Dear Faculty Members and Friends,

We congratulate Fr. Dr Samuel Obu,
a Professor at STS, on the publication of his Book
entitled: Communion and Authority in the Church.
Anglican and Roman Catholic Perspective (LAS
Roma, 2020) which focuses on the ecclesiological
perspective of the Anglican-Catholic dialogue.

As research is an essential part of the mission of the
Professors at STS, we are delighted about
Fr Samuel's publication and express our good
wishes for his future research and teaching at STS.

Congratulations!
Fr. Andrzej Toczyski
STS President

STS Publications

We also congratulate Fr. Giovani Caputa, a
Professor Emeritus of the STS on his new Book
entitled: SIMONE SRUGI NELLA STORIA DI
BETGAMÃL, (STS Publications Jerusalem 2020).
It is the first and very relevant historical-critical
research on the life and spiritualty of the Venerable
Simon Srugi.

Fr. Andrzej Toczyski
STS President

NEGEV REGIONS ARCHAEOLOGICAL VISIT

At last, the STS students made their first archaeological trip of the year! Indeed, this first archaeological visit was programmed and postponed many times due to covid-19. Personally I had a wonderful experience - I saw the wonders of the desert! I never imagined, that there is so much life in the desert.

We visited three places:
First, in Ein Avdat, we visited the national reservation. In Hebrew “Ein” means spring of water. The Monks lived in these caves. It is beautiful to see the water flowing in the Wadi, giving life to the plants and animals. Even the people who were living around, especially the Monks, used this water.

The second place we visited was Tel Avdat. It is a national park. The ruins show that the Nabateans, Romans and then the Byzantine Christians inhabited the city. Who are the Nabateans? They were people living in the desert. They made money from trading. Travelling to Gaza, Avdat is the only place traders could rest with their animals (camels, donkeys...)

The third place was Tel Beer Sheba. It is said that Abraham and his descendants lived here. It is an ancient settlement in the Negev desert. I was impressed to see the ancient ruins and how people could settle houses in this desert. I saw the genius works of those people. They built cisterns to collect the rain water. They also built a strong wall to protect themselves against the groups of dangerous nomads. At the entrance of the city there a deep well. The well is a
sign of an oath (Sheba in Hebrew) between two people in order to live peacefully with one another. That is why the place is called Beer Sheba in order that the next generation should remember what happened. On one side, there is Beer Sheba’s stream and other side Hebron’s stream. There was only one entrance gate to the city. The travelers could spend some days in the fortress with their camels and donkeys. The inhabitants brought water from Hebron Street via an underground channel to the system of caves. They filled the cistern with water so the people in the city could avail of it at any time.
It is amazing to see how this cistern was constructed without modern technology and to see
the wonderful ancient ruins in the middle of a desert where people were actually living.

- Isac Kinda M.Afr.

December 7, 2020 

TOPOGRAPHICAL VISIT TO THE MOUNT OF OLIVES

 

The 1st year students set out on the 3rd December for a visit to the Mount of Olives. The Mount of Olives offers the unique opportunity to get the lay of the land. Prominent sites of the Holy City can be spotted against the cityscape allowing one to enjoy a panoramic view.

Being surrounded by ‘history,’ our Guide Fr Gregor ofm, filled us in on the nuances of the landscape. From the umpteen number of graves that dotted the hillside, to the wry story of the Golden Gate. Ever one to expound, he helped us correlate scenes in the Bible with what we actually saw. From facts to faith, he explained all with the fervour of a historian and the integrity of a priest.

We began with a visit to a church in close vicinity to the Lion’s gate. Tradition venerates it as being the tomb of the Holy Virgin. However, due to the present circumstances, the site was closed to visitors. We then moved on towards the ‘Garden of Gethsemane’. The garden has a few archaic olive trees which historians agree to be about 800 to 900 years old. It is believed that the Crusaders chanced upon a very old olive tree and what we see today are all scions
from the said tree. Alongside is the ‘Church of the Agony’, popularly known as the ‘Church for all Nations.’ The architect, Antonio Barluzzi, built this church upon the ruins of a byzantine church. The structure is an assimilation of motifs from the byzantine and crusader eras, and a blend of modern architecture.

After a little hike, we soon found ourselves at ‘Dominus Flevit’ (quite literally ‘the Lord wept’). Constructed in the shape of a teardrop, to demonstrate Dominus Flevit, the chapel façade with its glass windows overlooks the Kidron valley and the old city. An interesting fact of its quaint design is that the cross on this façade is cleverly positioned to align the observer with the Holy Sepulchre in the cityscape.

This visit to the Mount of Olives was more than just a sightseeing trip. Insight into history brought us a new perspective. As we enjoyed a few cups of coffee against a golden sunset, we marveled at the solemnity which the old city exuded and its invaluable importance.

- Nathanael George SDB

December 3, 2020

FIRST YEAR TOPOGRAPHICAL VISIT

Archeology in Israel never stops and every site has its proper history related to our faith –  especially the Old City of Jerusalem. Studying theology in such a country is incomparable and unforgettable luck. Among all the places, the Holy Sepulcher is thoroughly studied as a place of crucial importance in the history of our faith.

The site has been the object of first visit for the first-year students of STS Ratisbonne 2020-2021. Accompanied by the Principle, Father Andrzej Toczyski SDB, and Father Gregor Geiger OFM as our guide, the mentioned confreres-students visited that Holy Sepulcher on Thursday, November 26th , 2020. The Holy Sepulcher, explained the guide, is the center of the shrine Christendom. It groups six occupants: Latin Catholics, Greek Orthodox, Armenian Orthodox, Syrians, Cops, and Ethiopians. It has the form of a circle with the Holy tomb of Jesus in the center. It is a place where Christ suffered, died, was buried and resurrected. Jesus was crucified on a rock eminence reminiscent of a skull outside the city and there was a grave nearby.

The most important argument for the authenticity of the site is the consistent and uncontested tradition of the Jerusalem community which held liturgical celebrations at the site until 66 AD. The rock is still there covered by the renewed building but a small part of its originality is visible for archeology. The main entrance has been kept untouched and the original keys are held by a Muslim. Curved rosettes in a hoodmould surmount the early twelfth century gadrooned arch. Inside the Basilica we visited the Chapel of Franks (after entrance), the Calvary (the floor above on a level with the top of the rocky outcrop on which Christ was crucified), the Chapel of Adam (area directly beneath the Greek Orthodox), the Stone of Unction (which reveals the commemorating of Jesus before burial), the tomb of Jesus (we didn’t enter inside because it was closed), the Syrian Chapel, the Chapel of Saint Mary Magdalene, the Prison of Christ, the Crusader Church, the Crypt of Saint Helena, the Chapel of the finding of the Cross, the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea, and the Chapel of Saint Vartan.

After visiting all these places, we concluded our tour with the holy procession with the Franciscan Brothers which also passed through these same places. The Blessing by the Holy Sacrament ended our visit and we then turned back home. Special thanks to the Principle of STS University.

- Célestin Ntakiyimana SDB

November 26, 2020