In one of our last articles (“Maintaining the courses…at a distance: the École adapts“), we informed you that some friars and professors had gone to Paris for a colloquium at the Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres and had not been able to return to Jerusalem. This extended “vacation” does not prevent the exiles from continuing to work and taking up news from those confined to the convent of Saint-Etienne.
Fr. Jean Jacques Pérennès OP, director of the École, found refuge in Brittany with the Dominican nuns of Beaufort, near Saint Malo where his mother is nearing the end of her life. He does not lack work, for, with the help of Skype and Zoom, he continues to follow the day-to-day operations of the École relayed by the onsite interim director, Fr. Martin Staszak OP. Still, as he is less busy, he manages to take a little more time for himself.
Fr. Olivier-Thomas Venard OP is confined with his family in the Périgord. Although he is accustomed to being a mere twenty paces away from his research assistants engaged in the Bible In Its Traditions, a distance of over 4000 km does not prevent him from continuing to pilot the project.
Fr. Jean-Baptiste Humbert OP is also in the company of his family, confined in an undisclosed location in Franche-Comte that shall remain secret… The archaeologist is deprived of his worksites—but this finally gives him some time to make progress on publications and other projects.
Fr. Dominique-Marie OP, is with the nuns of Saint-Maximin, where, in addition to being chaplain, he makes bread for them. Nevertheless, he is sorry to see that his beloved study trips and “Saturday Visits” have been cancelled. There is no longer any question of walking around Jerusalem on Tuesday afternoons with the students, who are also confined. His classes—like those of the other professors—continue nevertheless via the ZOOM platform.
Two of the members of the École are, however, unable to continue their activities.
It is impossible for Fr. Jean-Michel OP, on a prolonged visit to his brother and sister-in-law in a small village in the southwest, to continue his work without access to his photo lab. One of his daily occupations is walking the dog on the country trails.
Émile Puech, on the other hand, has remained in Paris, close to friends. The tireless teacher-researcher is annoyed that he did not take what he would have needed to make progress on his exploration of manuscripts, as well as the writing and editing of articles or books. At the time of departure, who could seriously suspect that they were going to get stuck?
Two brothers were also travelling—but for other reasons than the colloquium – when the Covid-19 crisis broke out.
Fr. Antoine Lévy OP flew to Helsinki last month. On one of items in his agenda was a medical operation in a Finnish clinic. It was also an opportunity for him to meet again the small Dominican community in the capital where he had lived for about fifteen years before going to Jerusalem.
Fr. Anthony Giambrone OP is in Washington at the Dominican House of Studies. He came to the United States for a symposium and for medical treatment, he too had to stay there, but he is doing well. So far, so good.
Fr. Christian Eeckhout OP went on a sabbatical and, as planned, spent several weeks in India before going to Brittany. After which he had to change his plans. Since the beginning of March he has been living in the Dominican convent in Lille. The confinement has not prevented him from contributing to other projects (notably TheoDom), with his accustomed indefatigability.
One question is on the lips of the exiles: when would a return to Jerusalem be possible? For the time being, no one knows. We have to wait until Covid-19 has ebbed and for the French and Israeli governments to coordinate. In the meantime, although the confinement seems rather long at times, everyone is in good health, the École continues its mission, and that is the essential thing. In any case, the exiles are very happy with the good news coming from Jerusalem.