On May 25, Pope Francis will visit here, one of the world’s most visited Christian shrines. The Friars Minor have been here since 1347. The current basilica incorporates a 12th-century church built over a fourth-century basilica constructed over an even earlier shrine. Sharing the use of this basilica with Greek Orthodox and Armenian monks, the friars also staff the adjacent St. Catherine of Alexandria Church, the city’s Latin-rite parish.
Visit Bethlehem.custodia.org for a virtual tour. Or read our August 2002 cover story about the basilica at StAnthonyMessenger.org. In addition to sponsoring the Terra Sancta Boys’ College and Casa
Nova (a guesthouse for pilgrims), the friars also minister at nearby Shepherds’ Field and the Milk Grotto. The “sanctuaries” link at custodia.org gives more information. In the Basilica of the Nativity, an Italian company is replacing the wooden beams and lead roof that date to 1479. The company is also replacing 38 windows. More renovations will be done as money becomes available. Bethlehem lies within the territory of the Palestinian Authority.
Pope Paul VI visited here in 1964; St. John Paul II did the same in 2000. May the Prince of Peace help all of us to be peacemakers!
This blog was taken from Pat McCloskey’s “Dear Reader” column in St. Anthony Messenger. To subscribe to this award-winning publication, click here.
Photo: Julie Hagan/PhotoXpress