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The brotherhood at the Shepherds’ Field re-opens in Bethlehem

The Monastery at the Shepherds’ Field has a new brotherhood. An official celebration on November 1 welcomed two new friars of the shrine guarded by the Franciscans of the Custody of the Holy Land. The monastery had not had a brotherhood residing there in a long time, but the place had never stopped being visited by many pilgrims and devotees. So, last July, it was decided that it would be re-opened, in order to avoid the daily movement of friars from the Church of St. Catherine to going to welcome the pilgrims. The two new friars who will take care of the shrine of the Shepherds’ Field are Fr. José Maria Falo Espés, as guardian, and Fr. Manuel Dominguez Lama.

In the ceremony that took place in the grotto of the Shepherds’ Field, friars from different places in the Holy Land welcomed the brotherhood. After the proclamation of the Gospel story related to this [holy] place, the story of the Christmas in Greccio was read. The Custos of the Holy Land, who gave a short homily, was also present.

“The opening of a fraternity in a holy place is always an occasion of great joy for us,” said Fr. Francesco Patton, “because it allows us to first of all reside in this place and to experience the graces of it offers both day and night. And here nighttime is even more important than daytime.” As the Gospels tell about this place, the shepherds guarded the field at night; and at night the angels brought the great announcement ‘Today in the city of David, the Savior is born to you,’ and they sang Gloria in Excelsis Deo. Thus, since every shrine has a special celebration related to the biblical event that took place there, at the Shepherds’ Field, the announcement of the angels and their song of praise to God will be remembered. The Custos thanked the friars who accepted the decision to settle there and take care of the place, and also thanked Fr. Artemio Vitores, guardian of the House of Bethlehem, the mother home of the new brotherhood at the Shepherds’ Field. “I wish the friars who will reside here will know how to be like shepherds and like angels,” said Fr. Patton. Shepherds to keep watch over and angels to guide pilgrims from all over the world and help them “contemplate and worship the child who has been given to us.”

In front of the entrance to the monastery, the Secretary of Holy Land, Fr. David Grenier, read the official opening decree: “I [thus] declare open the house of the Shepherds’ Field, which is part of the Custodial house of St. Catherine in Bethlehem.” He then handed over the official seal of the Custody of the Holy Land. Inside the monastery, refreshments were ready for those present, to celebrate with a moment of fraternal communion.

“My desire is to be at the service of the pilgrims and that those who come here can find joy, like the shepherds who returned from Bethlehem,” said Fr. José Maria Falo Espés, guardian of the new brotherhood. Fr. Manuel Dominguez Lama, who will also serve at the Shepherds’ Field, gladly welcomed the new assignment: “I am delighted to be here, where many pilgrims come together. We sing and laugh together. People want to experience our charism and it is a great experience.” So much is the turnout there, that mass is celebrated up to 25 or 30 times a day. “It is a place of simplicity, a place of the minority,” concluded Fr. Manuel, “because the shepherds did a humble job. The minority is seen and experienced here.”

Beatrice Guarrera


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Events calendar


Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe


Bethlehem: 11.30 Entrance (Custos) - 13.45 Vespers - 14.15 Procession - 15.30 Office & Procession


I Sunday in Advent. Bethlehem: 10.00 Solemn Mass


Vigil of Christmas. Bethlehem: 13.30 Entrance of the Archbishop & I Vespers - 16.00 Procession - 23.30 Office & 00.00 Mass - 1.45 Procession to the Grotto


Nativity of the Lord. Bethlehem (St. Catherine): 10.00 Mass Shepherds' Field (Greek & Catholic): 14.00 Pilgrimage

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