All this is what we call the Grace of the Holy Places.
It is a gift from God to the faithful who follow in the footsteps of Jesus in the Holy Land, or the memories of his incarnation, his birth and death, his ascension and resurrection.
As well as retracing the steps of Jesus, they can also follow in those of Mary and the Apostles on the path of their rediscovery of the Lord, because wherever he went, there abided the Lord, the Word become Flesh through Mary.
It is a grace that allows us to meet Christ in the places recorded in the Gospel,” says Father Omer Egleber, who adds, “if I feel such gratitude for the Franciscans, it is because without them, no importance would ever have been given to the Grace of the Holy Places.”
Indeed, over the six centuries that followed the Crusades, only the Franciscans stayed here, representing the Christian West.
If it had not been for their continuous presence, their strength and the price of their blood, the Roman Church today would be excluded from all the Holy Places.
Some of them would certainly have become stables or mosques, perhaps others the exclusive property of the separated churches. A Catholic would not have the chance to celebrate the divine mystery in the places where God appeared, feeling a stranger in the house of Christ.
It is therefore thanks to the Franciscans if Catholics feel at home here. Thanks to the sons of St. Francis, in the Sanctuaries that belong to the Lord, we can meet Christ, his Grace and above all the love that he showed us by dying on the Cross for us and, not last, the Hope that He gave us with his resurrection.
For this reason the Sanctuaries must continue to be the places where we pray, read and listen to the Word of God, where we are welcomed as though at home, the house of the Father, so that anybody who comes into contact with them does not leave without being touched by the Grace that every Sanctuary contains and emanates, and without having known the saving grace of Christ our Lord.
Fr. Artemio Vítores, ofm
Vicar of the Custody of the Holy Land