Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land - 22/03/2000 info: custodia@netvision.net.il
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At the Nativity Grotto
22 March 2000. updated at: 17:00


Soon after Mass the Holy Father went into the Franciscan "Casanova" (pilgrims' house) for lunch with the Franciscan community and other invited personalities. From here he went into the medieval cloister in front of the Franciscan Parish Church of St. Catherine where he was greeted by the religious authorities of Bethlehem. From here he entered into the Church of St. Catherine and from a side door enteredc into the Gustinian basilica which was erected in VI century over the Nativity Grotto replacing the Basilica built here by queen St. Helen (Emperor Constantine's mother in 326 AD). Walking steadily the Pope went straight to the stairs which lead into the grotto. This opening was built by the crusaders. Accompanying him there were the Custos of the Holy Land and the Minister General who even helped him down the stairways. A very suggestive scene the old ailing Pope leaning on the two francsciscans.... The Pope then knelt for a long time in prayer at this place in front of the spot marked by a silver star indicating the place where Jesus was born of the Virgin mother as is written in the Gospel of Luke and is written too in latin on this silver star. From here the Poped was led to the site of the manger where again he knelt down in personal prayer. Then sitting down he recited all alone the Divine Office. These were very intensive moments - moments of prayer and reflection of how really "these stones" as he himself called these sites, are still speaking to us today. Kneeling down around him stood the Minister General in front of the altar of the Nativity and the Franciscan Custos next to the Manger. Sta ding by there was also the Greek Orthodox monk. All this is the result of the Status Quo which is observed in this shrine. After the prayer ghe prayer stopped again in front of the silver star and then went up again from the same stgairway back into the Greek Orthodox basilica.

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Created / Updated Wednesday, March 22, 2000 at 17:00:01