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MORATINOS RETURNS TO THE BASILICA OF THE NATIVITY IN BETHLEHEM

Date: Saturday, December 4th, 2004
Source: Custody of the Holy Land




More than two years have passed since 10th May 2002, when after 38 days of siege, the Basilica of the Nativity in Bethlehem and the Franciscan friars have enjoyed the light of freedom once more.
Miguel Angel Moratinos, the special envoy of the European Union to the Middle East, played an important part in bringing about a happy ending to this drama. The Franciscans of the Holy Land would not have obtained anything without his continual doplomatic efforts and, above all, without the moral and material support which he gave to the sons of Saint Francis during the days of the siege and during the following days.
On 4th December, as Spanish Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation, Moratinos visited once more the Basilica of the Nativity. Father Artemio Vitores, Vicar of the Custody of the Franciscans of the Holy Land, took Mr. Moratinos and all the membes of his delegation (composed of 50 persons who are members of the Ministry, journalists and representatives of the Spanish Consulate and of Cooperation efforts) for a tour round the Basilica, the Grotto of the Nativity, the Church of Saint Catherine and other places in the vicinity.
The Franciscans then invited the Minister and all his delegation to lunch at the Hotel Orient Palace. With them they invited the Governor of Bethlehem, the Mayor and the Minister of Tourism of the Palestinian Authority. At the end of this fraternal meal Father Artemio decorated the Minister with the cross of the pilgrim and donated him some tokens of the Holy Land. Father Artemio thanked Mr. Moratinos for the help and cooperation on the part of Spain in favour of 800 families in Bethlehem, who receive food, items of first necessities and medicines, through the Franciscan parish. He was grateful, above all, for the preoccupation and care which Moratinos has always shown towards the Franciscans, particularly for his decisive action during the most difficult moments of the siege. The Minister of Foreign Affairs was visibly moved when he recalled those tragic moments and he promised never to forget Bethlehem and the Franciscans of the Holy Land Custody.



See: Cronicle of Bethlehem 2002

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