Nazareth, 28 April 2012
From the 28th of April until the 8th of May, 2012, the Minister General of the Order, Brother José Rodriguez Carballo and other members of the Order's government—the Vicar General, the Definators General for the various ethnolinguistic areas of the world, and the Secretaries—are in the Holy Land for their retreat. The program of prayer and retreat will follow an itinerant course beginning at Nazareth, and will conduct the friars on visits to the principle Sancturaries of the Galilee and Judea, celebrating daily Mass and enriching biblical and spiritual themes, ending in the Holy City, Jerusalem.
Having left Rome, the Minister General and his private secretary, Brother Francisco Javier Arellan Suarez, arrived at the Franciscan convent in Nazareth on Saturday, 28 April, at 4:00 p.m. Meeting them on arrival were the Custos of the Holy Land, Brother Pierbattista Pizzaballa, the Guardian of the convent, Brother Ricardo Bustos, and a group of friars from the Nazareth community. A short time later, the Vicar General, Brother Michael Perry, and the Definators General arrived, and were offered simple refreshments before settling in at the convent and the local Franciscan Casa Nova. At 6:00 p.m., the friars celebrated Mass in the Church of St. Joseph. Afterwards, everyone met in the refectory of the convent to share dinner with the fraternity and receive the official welcome of Father Custos.
Beginning at 8:30 in the evening, Brother Carballo led the evocative Saturday Marion Procession flanked by the Custos and the Guardian of Nazareth, and accompanied by a long cortège of Franciscan friars, priests, male and female religious of the different congregations of the Holy Land, local faithful, and pilgrims of various origins. Carrying the statue of the Virgin Mary in procession, and illuminating the dark evening with myriads of lit candles, the Joyous Mysteries were recited in many languages — Italian, Arabic, Vietnamese, Polish, Spanish and Portuguese — alternating with a Marion antiphon, until they arrived at the Holy Grotto on the inside of the Basilica of the Annunciation, where the Gospel of the Annunciation was proclaimed in different languages, followed by a brief greeting in Italian, English and Spanish directed at the pilgrims who had gathered in large numbers for the Marion prayer. Standing before the prayerfully recollected assembly, Brother Carballo venerated the Holy Place and censed the grotto in which stands the altar with the words Verbum caro hic factum est. The ceremony ended with the recitation of the Angelus and Solemn Benediction with the icon of the Annunciation, which was then born in procession among the faithful to the sacristy of the Lower Basilica.
Text by Caterina Foppa Pedretti
Photos by Miroslaw Jadlosz