The visit by the Minister General of the Friars Minor to Bethlehem

The visit by the Minister General of the Friars Minor to Bethlehem

Bethlehem was the centre of the visit by the Minister General of the Order of Friars Minor, fra Massimo Fusarelli and  the Vicar, fra Ignacio Ceja Jiménez, on the morning of 19 April.

They were accompanied by the Custos of the Holy Land, fra Francesco Patton, the Vicar fra Ibrahim, the Visitor General fra Alojzy Warot, and the Assistant Visitor, fra Marcello Ghirlando, as well as the friars who are responsible for the various charitable works.

The Children’s Home

The first stopping point was the Children’s Home which for 17 years has taken in Christian youngsters (26 at the moment) from families in difficulty. The building is a few dozen yards as the crow flies from the Basilica of the Nativity. The boys live here, from Monday to Friday, under the supervision of fra Sandro Tomašević, discreet of the Custody, and in the care of other adults – social workers, teachers and service personnel. On Saturdays, after school, they return to their families until Monday.

The Shepherds’ Field

The group then stopped at the Shepherds’ Field. This is where the announcement of the birth of Jesus by the angel to the shepherds of Bethlehem is remembered.  They were able, among other things, to visit two chapels being built out of the ten which will stand in a dedicated area. They are the Croatian and the Spanish chapels, funded by donations from institutions, associations and the faithful of the respective countries. Although the work has been greatly slowed down by the war underway, some of the furnishings have arrived and the chapels are partially ready.

The Terra Sancta School

This was followed by the visit to the Terra Sancta School of Bethlehem, the oldest of the Custody’s schools, founded in 1598. Introduced by the head teacher, fra George Haddad, the Minister General and the Vicar General were able to get to know at closer hand the difficulties of the Bethlehem inhabitants at the present time. The group then moved on to the Michele Piccirillo Centre, which helps disabled youngsters create  artisanal and artistic objects, which are on sale at the Centre itself.

At the Grotto of the Nativity

Lastly, at noon, everyone took part in the daily procession of the friars to the Grotto of the Nativity. The Franciscans lingered and prayed at length in the place where Jesus was born.  A statue of Jesus the Child was blessed on the spot of the manger. On Sunday, the Minister General will present it as a gift to the Franciscan Missionary Sisters of the Infant Jesus in Assisi. The morning came to an end with a fraternal lunch, during which the 45 years of priesthood of fra Antonio Szlahta, of the Bethlehem community, were celebrated.

Marinella Bandini