Inter-seminary Cultural Day 2024, Jerusalem

On the 24th of April, 2024 there was great joy at the Salesian Pontifical University (STS) – Jerusalem campus when thethree major seminaries within the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem met for their annual Interseminary Cultural Day. These major seminaries are: the patriarchal seminary in Jala from Bethlehem, the Franciscan seminary of the Holy Land and the Salesian Pontifical University, Jerusalem campus who hosted the event. The celebration began at 14hrs and went on until 20:30hrs. The theme of the day was: the importance of inter-cultural relations. There were more than one hundred and fifty participants.

The day started with an opening solemn song and prayer, followed by a conference on the importance of inter-cultural relations. The opportunity was given to various groups to exhibit the importance of inter-cultural relations with different presentations that included singing, dancing, telling stories, eating and drinking together, and most importantly, praying together for peace, justice, reconciliation and unity in our world regardless of our differences. Petitions were presented in different languages with representations from different continents.

This event was not only inter-cultural, but also inter-continental, inter-communitarian and inter-personal. It was beautiful to feel the family spirit, especially when participants gathered together as brothers to collaborate, and to participate actively and creatively in the various initiatives and proposed activities and programs of the day. The presentation of cultural items took the following order: Middle East, Asia Far East, India, Central Africa, West Africa, East Africa, Southern Africa, America, Eastern Europe, and Western Europe. This was indeed an intercultural and amazing experience. We thank God for granting us such a successful and enriching experience, for all the participants were happy.

Above all, the message of the day is that Culture is the set of beliefs, values, practices, traditions, and behaviours shared by a specific group, that strives to respect, open up and learn from other cultures, as it shares its own good gifted cultural values without loosing its specific unique identity. Culture encompasses aspects like language, religion, cuisine, social norms, and arts that vary widely between different societies and ethnic groups. Culture plays a significant role in shaping individual identities and influencing interactions between people in a community.

Nonetheless, one challenge of culture is the tension between preserving traditional customs as well as values, while at the same time adapting to a rapidly changing world. As technology and globalization continue to shape our societies, cultures around the world are faced with the dilemma of how to maintain their unique identities while also embracing new ideas and influences. Another challenge is the issue of cultural adoption, where elements of one culture are borrowed or adopted by members of another culture without proper acknowledgement or respect.

Cultural norms and traditions can sometimes hinder progress and prevent individuals from adapting to new ideas and ways of living. More so, some cultures are exclusive and not open to incorporating new ideas or perspectives from other cultures, which can limit diversity, enrichment and innovation.

Does this mean we do not need culture? No! We need culture, and even more, we need intercultural and especially interpersonal relations. Inter-cultural relations help us to live well in society. Thus, it was for this reason that the organisers decided to reflect on the theme: THE IMPORTANCE OF INTER-CULTURAL RELATIONS. May we be open-minded and open-hearted to conserve the goodness in our own cultures as we also open up to enrich ourselves with the beautiful riches in other cultures too.

By Kelvin Mutalala


On the 20th of March 2024, the students of the Salesian Pontifical University (STS), Jerusalem Campus had an archaeological excursion, visiting TEL ARAD – SHIVTA – and MITZPE RAMON (panoramic view). Since it was a long trip, they left at 7:15 hrs., from the Salesian Pontifical University (STS), Jerusalem campus, in the Ratisbonne community. Fr Yunus DEMIRCI, OfmCap. guided the archaeological excursion.

Students of STS with the STS Principal Fr. Andrzej Toczyski, SDB.



We began the archaeological excursion with a visit to Tel Arad. Tel Arad (Hebrew: תל ערד), Arabic Tell ‘Arad (تل عراد), is an archaeological tel, or mound, located west of the Dead Sea, approximately 10 kilometres (6 miles) west of the modern Israeli city of Arad into an area surrounded by mountain ridges known as the Arad Plain. The Tel overlooks an important crossroads from the Bronze Age to the present day. During the Iron Age, Arad defended the main road from Jerusalem, Hebron, and the Arad Valley to the ruins of Horvat Uza and the Dead Sea.

In total, 18 seasons of excavations took place, 14 of which focused on the Early Bronze Age city and were led by Ruth Amiran. The first expedition took place there between 1962 and 1966 and the second between 1971 and 1980. Yochanan Aharoni mostly led the excavations of the Mound of the Citadel. Today the site is declared a national park managed by the Israel Nature and Parks Authority.[1] After finishing the visit to Tel Arad, they visited Shivta.


Shivta (Hebrew: שבטה), originally Sobata (Greek: Σόβατα) or Subeita (Arabic: شبطا), is an ancient city in the Negev Desert in Israel located 43 kilometres southwest of Beersheba. Shivta was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in June 2005, as part of the Incense Route and Desert Cities of the Negev, along with Haluza/Elusa, Avdat and Mamshit/Mampsis. The name Shivta is a modern Hebraization, given by the Negev Naming Committee in the early 1950s. The Greek name Sobata was mentioned in the Nessana papyri.

Ruins of Shivta: Long considered a classic Nabataean city on the ancient spice route, archaeologists are now considering the possibility that Shivta was a Byzantine agricultural settlement and a stopover for pilgrims en route to St. Catherine’s Monastery in the Sinai Peninsula. A few ruins from the Roman period have been discovered, but most archaeological finds date from the Byzantine period. Shivta’s water supply was based on surface runoff collected in large reservoirs.

Roman Period: Roman ruins from the first century BCE have been discovered in the southern part of the city.

Byzantine Period: Three Byzantine churches (one main church and two smaller ones), two wine presses, residential areas and administrative buildings were excavated.

Churches: Traces of a wall painting of the transfiguration of Christ were discovered in the apse of the south church, as well as the remains of a colourful 6th-century mosaic and a beardless depiction of Jesus in the north church.

Agriculture (wine): The Shivta wine presses provide an insight into the scale of wine production at the time. According to archaeologists’ calculations, the Nabataean/Byzantine village of Shivta produced approximately two million litres of wine.

After finishing the visit to Shivta, they went to Mitzpe Ramon.

MITZPE RAMON (panoramic view)

Mitzpe Ramon (Hebrew: מִצְפֵּה רָמוֹן‎, Ramon Lookout; Arabic: متسبي رمون‎) is a local council in the Negev Desert in southern Israel. It is located on the northern ridge at an altitude of 860 meters (2,800 ft) overlooking the world’s largest erosion cirque, known as Makhtesh Ramon. In 2022, it had 5,263 inhabitants.

Mitzpe Ramon was founded in 1951 as a camp for workers building Highway 40. The town’s first permanent residents, several young families from Kibbutz Re’im and other areas of Israel, began moving there. After five years, the town was home to 370 residents including 160 children, most of them Israeli veterans. There were also 180 housing units to absorb new immigrants. They were joined by immigrants from North Africa, Romania and India in the 1960s, and it became the southernmost of the Negev’s developing cities.

We ended the day with a visit to the Dead Sea, where we had a bath, and then went back to Jerusalem.

Kelvin Mutalala, M.Afr.


1st Archeological Visit to Megiddo, Beit Shearim, 2023-24

Beyond the Battlefield: A Fascinating Encounter with Armageddon and Bet She’arim

The resumption of our archaeological excursion after an interruption during the war allows our STS to delve again into the rich history of the Holy Land. Our visit to Har Meggido (Armageddon), a site steeped in historical significance, serves as a poignant reminder of Israel’s storied past, particularly during the reigns of Kings David and Solomon. Megiddo is a national park that is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is about 16 acres of ‘ Strata’, which depicts different periods and cultures like Canaanites, Israelites, and Egyptians, dating back to the Neolithic period (7th– 6th century B.C.E.). It is an important strategic place for an army and a linking trade route for various countries. Therefore, there was a huge demand for this piece of land; henceforth, many battles were held here, which made Megiddo one of the most significant battlefields.

Under the knowledgeable guidance of Prof. Yunus Demirci, our exploration commenced with an illuminating video session, setting the stage for our immersive experience. Fr. Younus emphasised the pivotal role of Megiddo as a geographical nexus, shaping the trajectory of ancient commercial routes and exerting influence over travel and trade in the Middle East. As we traversed the site, we were transported back in time, envisioning the strategic importance of Megiddo as a coveted prize for kings vying for supremacy.

Megiddo was mentioned in several places in the Bible, including the New Testament. According to the Book of Revelation 16:16, it is in Megiddo that the most significant battle between God and evil will take place, after which God’s reign proceeds on earth. Upon reaching the site, we spotted many things to view, like the great Canaanite gate, the gate of Israel, the remains of palaces and temples, and the erected cultic stones for rituals, public granaries, reservoirs, stables, water systems, etc. The views of different strata from the excavations clearly indicate that it is ‘ a tomb of histories.’ I found the remnants of the “Northern Palace”  and the “Water System” most fascinating.

The Northern Palace, which was King Solomon’s spectacular project and dates back to the Solomonic era, is described in the book of 1 Kings. Nonetheless, a few academics propose it was during the reign of King Ahab. A unique subterranean tunnel built by the Israelites for the water system demonstrates their prudence and wisdom. They have dug this huge tunnel to bring the water into the cistern from the outside of the walls. Therefore, during attacks, enemies cannot deprive them of water. Megiddo is known for its greatest war between Egyptians and Assyrians, and the former emerged victorious. According to 2 Kings 23:29– 30, King Josiah of Judah was killed by Egyptian King Neco. He reigned over the region for several years.

Armageddon has become synonymous with doomsday scenarios and apocalyptic fiction in popular culture, inspiring countless works of literature, film, and art. Yet, amid the spectre of impending doom, there remains a glimmer of hope—a belief that even in the darkest hour, humanity possesses the resilience and ingenuity to overcome adversity.

Later, we visited ‘ Bet She’arim’, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the ancient Catacombs dating back to the 3rd century. They are all the ancient Israelite tombs; among them is the tomb of Rabbi Yehuda Hanasi, who compiled the Mishnah. After the death of the Rabbi, many are all the ancient Israelite tombs; among them is the tomb of Rabbi Yehuda Hanasi, who compiled the Mishnah. After the death of the Rabbi, many Jews who considered this Rabbi a saint wanted to be buried near him. Therefore, several Israelites were buried here. What is most interesting is the different styles of burials and the use of techniques and arts to prepare the tombs and coffins. There are stoned coffins, marble coffins, wooden coffins, clay coffins, and lead coffins. It consists of 30 different catacombs. Entering through the narrow door of the catacombs, reaching the spacious caves, and watching the unfolded reality made me think for a minute and reminded me of Psalm 49:11–12, which explains that wise and foolish, rich or poor, all will perish. We returned to our house in the evening, filled with wisdom and content.

Br. Kranthiraj Somireddi, SDB


From Apologetics to Phenomenology of Consciousness: Towards a promising perspective for Fundamental Theology

The main aim of Fundamental Theology is to investigate the event of revelation and the form of its credibility, thus providing a solid foundation for faith in Christ. As Pope Francis in Evangelii Gaudium says: “[…] (it) means an encounter between faith, reason and the sciences with a view to developing new approaches and arguments on the issue of credibility, a creative apologetics which would encourage greater openness to the Gospel on the part of all” (EG 132).

This discipline owes much of its theoretical apparatus to classical apologetics. The apologetics, thanks to its incessant work of reflection and argumentation, has allowed the maturation of a thought on God and revelation capable of resisting the pressing attacks that occurred from the 16th century. In the centuries that followed, the Western context saw philosophical thought polarize around the autonomy of reason (Kant, Hegel, Fichte...) and the affirmation of the scientific method as the sole criterion of truth. This has strongly challenged apologetics to justify its place among the sciences by constituting a credible epistemology for that context. Assisted by classical philosophy first and then scholasticism, apologetics built its own speculative apparatus that was able to demonstrate the reasonableness of faith and the authoritativeness of Christian revelation.

However, from the 20th century onwards, some authors began to point out that the defensive position of classical apologetics was becoming reductive, hence the need for a paradigmatic change, since the approach of the older paradigm is incompatible with the new worldview. One of the critical aspects of apologetics that I think is important to stress is the split between freedom and truth. In fact, truth, as understood by apologetics, follows a rigorous and reasonable process of argumentation in which the truth proposed demands acceptance by virtue of the seriousness of the analysis with which it is conducted. Truth in this view has the profile of imposition/necessity and not of persuasion/conviction.

From my personal point of view, Apologetics, in its development, had to chase its adversary onto its battlefield, using its own weapons.

Recent historical and cultural developments have highlighted several aspects that should be considered. I will mention four of them:
- The issue of the credibility of revelation follows a rational argumentation developed in an academic context, that requires an attunement with this kind of forma mentis to be approached.

- The advent of relativism and so-called «weak thought» on the socio-cultural level has challenged the concept of truth and its univocity.

- The growing hedonism and utilitarianism that contaminate society at every level are more interested in a useful than a reasonable God.

- The emergence of anti-reductionist theories on the philosophical level has called into question the scientific paradigm as the only certain method of investigating reality.

From these considerations, it can be deduced that a weakening of the context in which Apologetics was born and developed could constitute a weakening for it. In addition, I would add some questions.

Considering the many challenges that the current context poses to the church today, is it not appropriate to expand the concept of credibility?

When St Peter writes of “being ready to make a defense (apologia) to everyone who asks you to give an account (logos) for the hope that is in you” (1Pt 3:15), did he only mean learning a discourse about God and his revelation?

These questions arise spontaneously when I think back to an episode that happened to me several years ago. During an assembly, I listened to a young widow tell how the death of her husband, although it represented a very painful trial, was transformed over time into an experience of grace and radical conversion. This happened, thanks to encounters, people and events. To the point of arousing gratitude in her.

Faced with a fact of this kind, I ask myself: is that woman's faith to be considered credible? Is it reasonable?

I believe there is no doubt that a faith acquired through a personal encounter with Christ in such a dramatic event constitutes a greater defense for the faith of the individual than any systematic and coherent discourse learned. Indeed, where the demands of the human heart become more urgent (because of death, pain, happiness) faith and the encounter with the revealed God show all their power and reasonableness. They, therefore, become privileged places of persuasion, the Loci Theologici of each person's history.

This relevance to the heart of man, in my opinion, is the true bulwark of Christianity as well as being the matrix of its universality.

In this regard, I was struck by a perspective found in a text recommended to me by a confrere titled “Il Dio Capovolto” (The upside-down God) by Bruno Maggioni and Ezio Prato. This perspective implies another approach called Phenomenology of Consciousness.

Through this approach, the question of "analysis fidei" is understood differently. The latter is no longer considered as the analysis of the attributes and "ingredients" of faith but as a process that takes place within consciousness, identifying the fundamental structures that
support the genesis of faith.

I found it very interesting how, at the end of the text, man is presented as a “believing conscience” refers to the relationship that conscience has with the world and that is based on trust. We need only think of the number of acts of faith that make up our days. This relationship can access absolute truth thanks to what we can call 'historical symbolic evidence'. The symbol, indeed, is described as a detail that makes the whole meaning present. From this, “faith in something can only be implemented and justified on the basis of a symbol that persuasively anticipates the total meaning. [...] for the Christian faith the symbol is Jesus Christ.” Further reinforcing this perspective is the symbolic significance that certain gestures of Jesus take on in the Gospel accounts. The gestures of care and nurturing that Jesus performs in his public life are not exhausted in themselves but become the symbol through which the believing conscience accesses a total truth. Seen in these terms, the persuasiveness of this symbol is given by being a point of origin of credibility. From there, in fact, “its historical, existential, universal truth arises, not as additions to the center but as irradiations of the same.”

This truth is always new to each individual and is recognized and believed in the act of faith.

The authors of the text see the Phenomenology of Consciousness as a more promising perspective. In my opinion, it would also be worthwhile to seriously consider this perspective during the first cycle of theological studies. The relationship between man and God, understood and explored within this framework, could certainly be a valid tool in a pastoral context.

- Enrico Del Bel Belluz SDB

October 13, 2021


In two months, I will be ordained a Catholic Priest with the Salesians of Don Bosco. It has been an 11-year journey of formation and preparation. My grandmother has stopped asking me when I will be ordained because it always seemed like it was years away. Now it is only a matter of months. Traditionally, as part of the preparation, it is common to choose an image and a quote that would be a symbolic representation of this moment of ordination. I will take this opportunity to explain the image I have chosen because I find it to be rich in spiritual and theological content. It is not a typical image and, in fact, it is not something I thought I would choose. Yet I was captivated by it. This painting can be found above the altar in St. Stephen’s Church in Wasseralfingen, Germany, painted by Father Sieger Koder.

St. Peter, on the left, is painted in the water after hearing the insight from St. John; “It is the Lord.” (Jn 21:7)  He leaves the disciples in the boat and swims in haste to the Risen Jesus who waits for him on the shore. The hand coming out of the sea symbolizes the event of the walking on the water, when Peter, soon begins to drown the moment he takes his eyes off Jesus. “Lord save me!” (Mt 14:30) This is the hand of surrender, the acknowledgement our weakness, of our need for a Savior. Now, Peter has his eyes fixed on the Lord. There is nothing else. No one is more important. It is the Lord! 

On the other side, St. Mary Magdalene, who is face to face with the brightness of the Risen Lord, has her hand opened in the same surrendered prayer after hearing her name pronounced by her Rabbouni. (Jn 20:16) Her life has been a difficult one. Cleansed of seven demons, she knows what it means to suffer. She knows how difficult this world can be. The road behind her is filled with death, injustice, pain and suffering. Yet on this road there is also beauty. Jesus brings the fullness of this reality. We will suffer, we will die but neither of them can have any power over us. Death and suffering are not the last word. The last word is always love. Love conquers even death. 

The center piece is a dynamic representation of the disciples on the road to Emmaus who have met the risen Lord in the breaking of the bread. (Lk 24:13-35) Yet another reality is added. This risen Lord is the transfigured One, surrounded on either side by Moses, who receives the manna from Heaven, and Elijah who is sustained by the bread brought by the ravens. The coming together of heaven and earth. The old and the new. The human and the divine. Jesus, the first-born from the dead, the new creation, gives us the new covenant in his very own body and blood. The one disciple is fully immersed, his hand raised in surrendered prayer. Metanoia. Repent and believe in the Good News. (Mk 1:15) The other disciple is still holding on, unwilling to be swept away by the abundant grace freely offered yet necessary for this promised new life of the Kingdom. The two women coming back from the cross are contemplating the stone that separates them from their beloved Friend, Brother and Lord. Who will roll away the stone for us? (Mk 16:3) Even in this tragic moment, their love continues to bind them to Jesus. This love continues to urge them forward in service. They continue to seek him. To ask questions. To desire to be close with him, even in the presence of the painful separation. They will soon realize that he is closer than they could ever imagine. 

The three people on the bottom left are said to represent our fallen humanity. The sinner, the tax collector and the prostitute draw near to the warmth and brightness of the Resurrection. Their restless hearts seek a Love that will finally satisfy. On the top right, the window of the Papal apartment is wide open. There is to be no more hiding, no more darkness. It is time to allow the fresh air of the Spirit to move freely, to blow where It will. St. Paul just below has had his life turned upside down. His hand raised in the surrendered prayer that is now common throughout the painting. It is the encounter that changes his life and sends him out on mission. He, at the very core of his being, his very person, becomes a mission on this earth. (Evangelii Gaudium 273) There is nothing left to live for than to preach Christ crucified (1 Cor 1:23), the one who loved him and gave his life for him. (Gal 2:20)

The last of the characters are up for debate. The Pope is most surely St. John XXIII. The older gentlemen according to one description is Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, an influential theologian before Vatican II. However, in my interpretation, the image more closely reflects the person of Jules Isaac, the Jewish historian from France who had a brief but intimate friendship with John XXIII and was very influential in Christian-Jewish relations and an inspiration for the document Nostra Aetate. Jules knew suffering, he knew love, he knew the cross, even if it was hidden within his heart. It is in the context of friendship, even between people of different religions, that will allow each of us to be prepared to encounter the risen Lord. 

For me, this entire painting portrays the dynamic life of faith. A faith of beauty and pain. Life and death. Betrayal, forgiveness, surrender, doubt, peace, war, sadness and joy. It is within all of this that we encounter the Risen Lord. It is with our burden and our weakness that He raises us along with his own body. He invites us into his very own passion, death and resurrection. This is the upward calling in Christ Jesus (Phil 3:14). The life of the Spirit towards the Father. All are invited into this Mystery. In my own encounter with the Risen Lord, I have been called to follow him as his priest. I have been called to break the bread, to open up a space for an encounter with Him. It is not my priesthood. It is HIS. My hands, lifted in surrendered prayer, must always be ready to do the will of the Father. To allow his love to move me to action. To listen as he calls my name, day after day, accompanying me as I carry the cross I have been given. Yet, the cross is not a symbol of death, but of unconditional and total love given freely. This love transforms. This love offers us the gift of becoming partakers in the divine nature. (2 Peter 1:4) I am not yet sure what I shall be, but when it is revealed, I do know that I will be like him, for I shall see him as he is. (1 Jn 3:2). The call is to abide; to abide in Love; to abide in the great Mystery of Faith and as we abide, we become. May our hearts be surrendered and may we enter into his glory. (Lk 24:26)

- Steve Demaio SDB

May 26, 2021


      My reflection about death begins with an illustration of a valid syllogism, 'All men are mortal. Socrates is a man. Therefore, Socrates is mortal.’ The mortality of Socrates is correctly inferred from the two premises, the major and the minor, linked together by their middle term. The fact that Socrates is long since dead may have helped manoeuver his argument. Death (מוות (remains an abstract proposition to which we give, to use Cardinal Newman's expression, a 'notional' and not a 'real' assent. It is always the mortality of Socrates, or someone else's, that is the matter under consideration, not mine. Metaphysics, according to Aristotle, should not be taught to people under the age of thirty. Moreover, given today's much greater longevity, Aristotle would no doubt extend the age limit considerably. Because they would not be mature enough to comprehend it, so death is not an appropriate subject for the young's mental, psychological and spiritual capacities due to their innocence. Being a Christian and not only that, but also a theologian student of which I am aware that theology is not simply a matter of interpreting scriptures. The Bible or the Quran bring the amazing concept of a metaphysical force that death is a physical universe being, that gives hope only in the risen Lord. I make it clear that I have never been close to death so I am not giving a first-hand experience and a total objectivity of it. But my emotions exists in it and only hope compromises my rationality and balance. I have come to the affirmation that, this ‘death mysticism’ by dying in baptism which every Christian dies, buried with, rises sacramentally to a new life in Christ (Trinity). However, death is a participation in Christ's death. Our physical death, besides being a natural physical end, is also a punishment for sin. Therefore, dying to sin is already a preparation for and overcoming physical death. This journey from death to life is sustained throughout our lives by other sacraments, especially by the Eucharist which has been called the Medicine of Immortality, deepening the Christian's companionship with Christ in suffering and death.

      Moreover, in all these ministries, the Church often holds out the passion and death of Jesus as the model of patience and obedience, urging the sick and dying to unite themselves with Christ and to 'die like Jesus' (ישוע כתו למות .( The two cries of Jesus on the cross, 'My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?' (Mark 15:34) and 'Father, into your hands I commend my spirit' (Luke 23:46), comforts the dying in their conflicting experiences of remoteness from and nearness to God, doubt and faith, despair and hope, defiant rebellion and loving obedience in the face of death. The Church also recommends that the dying 'offer up' their sufferings to God as a way to merit eternal life. In conclusion, death is the permanent, irreversible cessation of all biological functions that sustain a living organism. Therefore, it is in the light of the kingdom of God that the resurrection of Jesus and ours must be understood. Resurrection is not coming back to life, being 'reunited' (התאחד ( with our bodies. The core of Jesus' resurrection does not lie in his regaining his former body but in his new and transformed life with God and in God, in the peace and love of God's reign for which he lived and died. So too will our own resurrection be: we do not live and hope for the reunion with our bodies after death, rather, we live and rejoice and suffer and die for the reign of God, and in this way hope for a new, transformed life in God and with God, in the company of Jesus and all our sisters and brothers, in a new heaven and a new earth.

- Nelson Mwale SDB

May 10, 2021


A great blessing of studying Theology here at the Studium Theologicum Salesianum is the experience of life in the Holy Land. As students of theology, we experience the Gospel, not only in the classroom and our prayer lives, but also when we walk the holy sites, as any purveyor of our website will recognize is a common occurrence for all students. Here we encounter the 5th Gospel.

This term, though its exact origins remain unclear, is most commonly attributed to St Jerome who is credited as saying the following: “Five gospels record the life of Jesus. Four you will find in books and the one you will find in the land they call Holy. Read the fifth gospel and the world of the four will open to you.” More recently, during the first visit of a Pope to the Holy Land since Peter himself, Pope Paul VI referenced many of the sites as living stones that can inform the reading of the Gospel. Benedict XVI expressly utilized the term, referencing the 2008 Synod on the Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church, when he spent an entire paragraph of his Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Verbum Domini, saying that “the stones on which our Redeemer walked are still charged with his memory and continue to ‘cry out’ the Good News.” 1

For sure, this land explains so much of the Gospel and Jesus’ actions. We can visit the sea of Galilee, see how the waters acted as natural amplification when one speaks on a boat, and recognize the desire for as many to hear him when Jesus commanded the disciples “to have a boat ready for him because of the crowd” (Mk 3:9). We can walk the road to Emmaus from Jerusalem, follow the steps of Jesus from the Mount of Olives to the place of his imprisonment at Caiphas’ house, and even journey, like the holy family, from Nazareth to Bethlehem. Bargil Pixner, a noted biblical scholar and archaeologist, emphasized this when he said that “In the unfolding of the relationship between God and man there exists not only a progressive History of Salvation but also a Geography of Salvation.” 2 Each site and the land as a whole has the capacity to enlighten the understanding of the scriptures, and only walking the land oneself can one truly experience these lessons.

For us students of theology it is a great blessing to live here and study here, among “the places in which God revealed himself to man [which] still remain ever present.” 3 As we journey through this Eastertide, our prayer is that the experience of the risen Jesus may enlighten our lives, and we may be confident in his presence through this experience of the places of his geographical incarnation.

1. Verbum Domini 89.
2. Bargil Pixner, With Jesus through Galilee according to the Fifth Gospel, trans. Christo Botha and Dom David Foster
(Rosh Pina, Israel: Corazin Publishing, 1992)
3. Ibid.

- Lenny Carlino, SDB

April 27, 2021


Nothing in this world is easier than attaining God’s forgiveness. This is the biggest truth that we must believe. God is more eager to give forgiveness than we are to receive it. Many refuse to believe this. There are many reasons for that, one of them being we constantly brood over how miserable and wretched we have been, wishing we had never sinned, wishing we had always kept a clean sheet.

For Jesus, even though to sin is the greatest evil, to be a sinner is a value. We hate sin with all our heart and avoid it. But if we have sinned and repented, then we have reasons to rejoice, because there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.            (Lk. 15:7)

Then we may ask: Why not sin deliberately so that we shall receive even more grace? No, remember we are dealing here with a mystery that is beyond the comprehension of the human mind. It is important to maintain the truth of both these opposites. Hate sin and if you have sinned and repented, consider yourself very lucky indeed because grace will be poured into you in superabundant measure. “Where sin abounded; grace abounded all the more.” (Rom.5:20) The repentant sinner draws God to himself with greater force than a magnet.

This is the good news Jesus proclaimed. The other stuff about being sorry and making a hundred penances for our sins is not good news at all. It is stale news. We knew it all along without the preaching of Jesus. May we understand the merciful God we have so that we live our lives freely and joyfully, with great confidence in God’s mercy.

- Sathish Paul SDB

April 11, 2021


After the death of Christ on the Cross of Calvary, the disciples and followers of Christ were scattered, confused and afraid to appear in public. There was no sign whatsoever of a religious sect or institution emerging from them: at that time, they all felt that it was over! However, the experience of Mary Magdalene and Peter and John at the tomb of Christ ignited in them a sense of new life, in which hope and faith began to dawn. Their initial experience of the Resurrection of the Crucified Lord, as they gazed at that empty tomb and even entered into it, laid the fundamental foundation for the Christian faith for all future generations.

“The Word became flesh and dwell among us” (John 1:14). This came about through the trust and faithfulness of Mary, “the handmaid of the Lord” (Lk 1:38). Hence, through the incarnation of Christ, God became a human being and lived under the directives of Mary and Joseph in a typical Jewish household, in the midst of Jewish society, with the ultimate purpose of bringing about the redemption of humanity. To fulfill the mission entrusted to Him by the Father, Christ formed individuals whom he called apostles and disciples. These followers were from different walks of life. Nevertheless, they were all imbued with the teachings of Christ. Although from the beginning none of them fully understood him, they did accompany him faithfully in his ministry of preaching, teaching and healing the sick.

His ministry was a vivid manifestation of the Father and it was contrary to the status quo of his time. The Pharisees, Scribes, Zealots and Kings felt challenged by his way of life and they plotted on many occasions to kill Him. For instance, when Christ was threatened with death in the temple area in Jerusalem, his candid response was to tell them: “destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up” (John 2:19). It was only afterwards that his disciples realized he had been referring to the resurrection of his body. For the religious authorities at the time, killing Christ was the ultimate remedy to an imminent danger, or so they claimed. They were threatened by him, and sought to safeguard the populace from rebelling against the social and legal, political and religious structure then in place, from which they benefited. As cited in Holy Scripture, this was expressed by Caiaphas, the High Priest that year: “it is good for one man to die rather than for the whole nation to perish” (John 11:50). Eventually, they succeeded in arresting Christ in the garden of Gethsemane in the midst of his apostles. He was tortured, beaten and unjustly sentenced to death. For the religious authority at the time, their mission was thus perfectly executed, and their objective achieved: Christ could no longer surface, and his disciples would soon be scattered. They were not going to continue his mission since they were entirely earthly in their thinking and – people of little faith that they still were at that point – not fully understanding of the identity of their Master. However, death could not hold him captive after his burial. A radiance of faith and hope lit up the faces of the first disciples who visited the tomb as they gradually came to realize that their Master had indeed risen. It was the beginning of their experiences at the empty tomb on the third day after Jesus’ death, followed by his appearance among them when they were gathered in a locked room, that enkindled them with new life, filled them with hope and strengthened their faith, enabling them to proclaim the message of the Risen Christ. This is why St. Paul will say, “…and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is in vain and you are still in your sins” (1Cor. 15:17). The Resurrection of Christ is the center of the Christian faith.

Thus, historically and spiritually, the visibility and concretization of Christianity came very quickly to be identified with the “empty tomb”. It is through what happened in this now empty tomb, namely Christ’s actual rising from death and emerging from it in his new risen state, that Christians are now able to become adopted sons and daughters of the Father: reborn in Christ, they are called to live in the love of the Trinity. It is also through this empty tomb that they come to realize the forgiveness of the Father and their liberation from the slavery of sins, a forgiveness and liberation which always passes through the mediation of the Risen Christ. Now, I can boldly proclaim, and even cry from the rooftops, that Christianity in all of its ramifications, including all its past and current institutions and manifestations, was built on an empty tomb. Indeed, on an empty space for, having been unable to hold his dead body, that tomb was a tomb no more: death had been overcome. This is why, even today, the resurrection of Christ remains the central pillar of Christianity. Any attempt to undermine this reality will dim the light of Christianity, and doom it to be condemned as nonsensical. It is a reality that students of STS are in contact with almost every day in the ancient city of Jerusalem. We have seen, felt, contemplated and continue to see multitude of people from around the world venerating this “empty tomb” which is approximately 20 minutes via walking from our noble institution. What a privilege for us!

- Cornelius Robert U-Sayee, Sdb.

March 20, 2021


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