From 27th November to 2nd December 2016, the Superiors General of the Carmelites, Fr Fernando Millán O.Carm. and Fr Saverio Cannistrà OCD, together with the General Definitors or Councillors of both religious Orders, met together on Mount Carmel (Haifa, Israel), to spend time together and to discuss various matters. This initiative is part of the practice of dialogue and fraternal closeness that has been customary in recent years.
The central topic of the meeting was the relationships between consecrated life and the local Church, with regard to the new version of the document Mutuae Relationes, which is in an advanced stage of preparation in the relative Vatican congregations. The discussion was directed by Fr Agostino Montan, from the Congregation of St Joseph (Murialdo Josephites) a professor in the Lateran Pontifical University and a recognized specialist on the topic. Together with him they went over the history of the question, giving special attention to the viewpoint adopted by Vatican Council II and its evolution afterwards, with the rediscovering of the local Church and the ecclesiology of communion. The present situation was analyzed, as well as the prospects for the future, valuing, among other elements, the emphasis of the recent document Iuvenescit Ecclesia on the coessentiality (oneness in essence or nature) of the hierarchical gifts and the gifts of charisms.
The rich dialogue of these day took specially into account the experience of our Carmelite families in particular fields (parishes, missions, laity…). Also discussed was female contemplative life and the new directions of the Apostolic Constitution Vultum Dei Quarere and its implications at various levels (monasteries, federations, friars and nuns, diocese, Vatican congregations, etc).
On the other hand, during the days of the meeting, those taking part took the opportunity to come in contact with the past and the present of Carmelite presence in the land of Israel. One of the special visits was to Wadi-es-Siah, the cradle of Carmelite life; there they were able to check and comment on the steps to be taken, little by little, to preserve and dignify the ruins of the first monastery and to facilitate pilgrimage to this enclave which is so significant in our history. They also visited the present Carmelite monastery of Muhraqa, tied to the tradition of the prophet Elijah and the destination of numerous pilgrims and visitors. The stay in the Holy Land was completed with a day of pilgrimage to places of special mention in the Gospel, such as Mount Tabor, Nazareth, Capernaum and the lake of Galilee.
The experience of these days served to strengthen the cordial and fraternal relationship between the general governments of our religious families and to renew the desire to continue living and transmitting this style of gospel life which was born in the land of the bible and is now spread throughout the whole world in many forms and nuances. We all felt called, in the spirit of the Rule given by St Albert to the first hermits on Mount Carmel, to “live in allegiance to Jesus Christ, serving him faithfully with a pure heart and a good conscience”, meditating day and night on the law of the Lord”.