Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land - 22/03/2000 info:
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Mass in Betlhehem
22 March 2000. updated at: 12:24

The Patriarch welcomed the Pope in the name of the Catholic Church in the Holy Land and in the name of all the Christian comunities on this particular day of the Great Jubilee when God showed himself in Jesus to the world. He enphasised that the Church of this Land will be with His Holiness who returned to his land and wish to hear the same message which was proclaimed by Jesus. "All the Christian churches present in this land will be with you" said the Patriarch. All wish to hear a word of encouragement because this land is still searching for justice and peace with its people still living in a situation of instability. A people who want to be witness in this land of Palestine and in Israel where all can live in Peace. All the people of this land will add their prayers to that of his Holiness. The Patriarch augured that the people of this land will be granted by God the supreme gift of peace to renew the face of this land.

After these words the Pope opened the celebration by introducing the liturgy. He confirmed that he wished earnestly to be in Betlhehem because here Christ was born of Mary, here He was proclaimed Lord and here he was adored by the shepherds and the Wise Man. Here we feel the presence of the Immanu-el (God with us) and who will remain with us forever. With these words he introduced the penitential rite and invited the assembly to ask forgiveness in order to be able to live the Mystery of he Word made Flesh. Then the Glory was intoned and the Choir made up of a combined choir from the franciscan parishes of Bethlehem and Jerusalem led the singing. Then the Pope proclaimed the introductory prayer which is used for the Christmas Mass. The first reading too was taken from the Christmas Liturgy and was sung according to the Maronite rite. This was taken from Isaiah (ch 9): "The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned. You have enlarged the nation and increased their joy; they rejoice before you as people rejoice at the harvest, as men rejoice when dividing the plunder. For as in the day of Midian's defeat, you have shattered the yoke that burdens them, the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor. Every warrior's boot used in battle and every garment rolled in blood will be destined for burning, will be fuel for the fire. For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. " The Responsorial Salm followed. The second reading was taken from the Letter of Paul to Titus: " At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life".

The gospel of Luke was read according to the Greek Melchite Rite. It is the same Gospel proclaimed during the night liturgy of Christmas (Luke ch 2): "In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to his own town to register. So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger." Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests."

Certainly we all realise that this is a historic moment. The proclamation of the Great Jubilee commemorates this Birth which took place in this town on the outskirts of the Holy City of Jerusalem about 2000 years ago. After the singing in arabic of the Gospel the Pope delivered his homily.  


  As soon as the Pope finished his homily the Mu'ezzin of the Mosque started the daily noon prayer. All silently waited while the prayer went on from speakers of the Minaret. This was a very suggestive moment with all in complete silence. A curious mixture of the Eucharist with the Moselm prayer in this manger Square at Bethlehem. As soon as this moslem prayer ended the Patriarch introduced the profession of faith referring too to the moslem prayer which had invited all to pray to the One God. The profession of faith was sung in latin. Latin is the "official language" used by the Catholic Church and in this region the Catholics are also known as "Latins".

The prayers of the faithful followed where intentions were offered for the Church under the leadership of Pope John Paul II. Other intentions were offered for the local Church, for the families, for pilgrims. After these prayers in different languages the offerings where brought to the Pope. These included the "fruit of the land" and were presented by the local community in all its diversity.

The liturgy went on with the other different parts of the Eucharist.

The celebration is still going on. We will keep possting our updates as soon as they become available.

Created / Updated Wednesday, March 22, 2000 at 12:24:32