Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land - 24/03/2000 info: email@example.com
Most Holy Father,
As Minister and servant of the entire Fraternity of the Friars Minor, who for centuries have looked after this holy place, I extend to Your Holiness a most cordial welcome, and I do so also in the name of the religious and civil authorities and of the Christian community of different rites.
It was in this place that Mary of Nazareth was greeted by the Angel, as "full of grace". Here she gave her "yes" response, conveying her total confidence in the will of the Father. She who was the "virgin made Church" (St Francis, Salutation to the Blessed Virgin Mary) became in this place, through the action of the Holy Spirit, the mother of the Divine Word. Together with Joseph, Mary reared and took care of the Son of God, who was to live in this locality for thirty years. Hear Jesus was to reveal himself as prophet consecrated by the Spirit of God, to announce a year of favour from the Lord and that the Kingdom was near at hand (cf. Lk 4:16-21).
Mary of Nazareth reminds us of the marvels God can do, once he finds a creature ready to collaborate gladly with the action of the Spirit.
The imposing monuments and archaeological remains bear witness to the affection with which generations of Christians, from the beginning down through the ages, have surrounded this unique place. The humble drawings and marks of veneration left by pilgrims who, through the ages, were attracted here by the Nazarene and his holy mother, move our hearts and to strengthen our belief that the God who was made man in Emmanuel is with us for evermore.
Your Holiness visited these places as a young Auxiliary Bishop, leaving a sign of your presence which we Franciscans still keep with affection. Today you return to this house of Mary as you continue your pilgrimage of love and testimony through roads traversed by humanity. For us it is a cause of joy that we can behold the Successor of Peter as you lead the Church entrusted to your ministry, together with the whole of humanity to this place. It is a way of announcing anew, at the beginning of the new millennium, the mystery of the Son of God who takes flesh from our human nature in the pure womb of the Virgin Mary.
Many thanks, Holy Father, for this gift!