Bethlehem 1999:
Message from the
Franciscan Custos
of the Holy Land

Fr Giovanni Battistelli ofm

Brothers and Sisters all over the world, on this night as you turn towards Bethlehem- we the Franciscans of the Holy Land to whom Providence and the Church has entrusted the care of the Holy Places, extend to you the greeting of St. Francis: may God give you peace.

Two thousand years ago, in this Holy Grotto, the Savior of the world was born in poverty, simplicity and humility. From this land, on that marvelous night the angels announced the great mystery of the Incarnation, the only sure foundation of peace which all of us in every part of the world feel a need.

In a few moments, in this Holy Place, united with the Church of Rome, we shall symbolically cross the threshold of the Great Jubilee Year 2000, so earnestly desired by the evangelical spirit of Pope John Paul II. Here, his fatherly concern for all humanity has great significance. His own values link Christmas to both Christian holiness and a universal culture. In fact, on this solemn feast of Christmas everyone carries deep within their heart the dream of a world in which there is more goodness, more fraternity, more peace, and a greater concern for one another.

On this Holy Night, in the spirit of St. Francis, we cherish every human being in our hearts and pray that all might encounter one another in a spirit of common friendship. At the dawn of the Third millennium may the Good News announced by the angels be lived by every person of goodwill. May this Holy Christmas open the door to the many graces that the Lord wishes to bestow on those who know how to live in the spirit of the Great Jubilee.

From all of us here in Bethlehem, to all of you around the world, a Merry Christmas and a blessed beginning to the new millennium, in the name, and under the sovereignty of Christ Jesus, and through the motherly intercession of the Virgin Mary.

Fr. Giovanni Battistelli ofm
December 1999


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