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History of the Carmelites

A Meeting Place Between East and West

The name of the House implies various spiritual and historical relationships to the Order of the Brothers of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel, better know as the Carmelites, who have existed for eight centuries.

The Carmelites originated on Mount Carmel in Palestine and were first given official recognition by Albert, the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem between 1206 and 1214, who “gathered them all into one college” and gave them a rule of life. A rule of life which today still incorporates the essential values of their project “to live in obedience to Jesus “. Jerusalem is thus the Mother Church of the Carmelites, from which they were born as an institution and from where they, then spread over the whole world in the centuries following the time of the crusades in the Holy Land. Furthermore, for several centuries they followed the liturgy of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem.

The first foundation of the Carmelites on Mount Carmel lay on one of the pilgrim routes from Acre to Jerusalem. The pilgrimage to the Holy Land shared the prestige of the other great pilgrimages of the time: Rome, Saint Michel in France, Santiago de Compostela in Spain, San Michele del Gargano in Puglia, Italy. The welcoming of pilgrims has therefore, from their beginning, been one of the commitments of the Hermit Brothers of Mount Carmel.

Besides being noted in the Bible as a luxuriant place of particular beauty, Mount Carmel is also renowned as the site of the deeds of the prophet Elijah, venerated by Jews, Christians, and Muslims alike. The first retreat of the Carmelites was situated near one of these sites, “at the Fountain of Elijah.” where the hermit brothers built a small oratory in the midst of their cells in the Wadi ein-es­Siah, dedicated to the Virgin Mary, “Our Lady of the Place,” in order to celebrate the Eucharist daily. According to the contemporary Jacques de Vitry, bishop of Acre, the hermit brothers lived in this place “like bees in a bee-hive, producing the honey of contemplation”.

Pilgrimages, Jerusalem, inter-faith dialogue: these are some of the motives called upon by the apostolic exhortation, “Tertio millennio adveniente”, and by the bull of the Jubilee, “Incarnationis Mysterium,” of Pope John Paul II. In the latter, the Pope writes: “May the Jubilee encourage a new step towards a reciprocal dialogue, so that one day together Jews, Christians, Muslims will be able to exchange the sign of peace in Jerusalem”.

Beginning with the Jubilee Year 2000, with this new house, the Carmelites wish to give their own sign of welcome to the pilgrims coming to Rome, thus creating an ideal bride between Rome and Jerusalem, between East and West, between Jews, Christians, and Muslims, aimed at promoting peace and dialogue amongst the people, and rediscovering some aspects of their origin and charisma.

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