On Thursday, June 9, Francesco Patton made his solemn entry into Bethlehem. The day began with Christian civil representatives and parishioners from Jerusalem. After the first exchange of vows in the presence of the pastor of Jerusalem, Br. FerasHijazin, the Custos went toward Bethlehem, where he was first welcomed in Mar Elias, on the border between the municipalities of Jerusalem and Bethlehem.
Fr. Ibrahim Faltas, OFM, was waiting with the mayors of Beit Jala and Beit Sahour. The Israeli mounted police escorted him to the enclave at Rachel’s Tomb, where he was welcomed by the pastor of St. Catherine’s, Br.Nerwan Nasser Al-Banna.
In Manger Square, the scouts’ drums and bagpipes hailed in the approaching procession. Once they arrived in the square, the Custos was greeted by the Mayor of Bethlehem, Vera Baboun, the monastery’s guardian, Br. Ricardo Bustos, as well as representatives of the Greek Orthodox and Armenian churches. Applause and ululation from the crowd showed the crowd’s excitement. The Custoswalked across the Church of the Nativity, which like its sister church of the Holy Sepulcher, is also being restored.
On behalf of the monastery’s guardian and the whole parish, Br. Nerwan delivered his welcome speech at St. Catherine’s Basilica. Numerous parishioners and pilgrims came together for the celebration.
“It gives me great joy to be with you today here in Bethlehem […]” began the Custos. “The place where the angels reminded us that God loves us, the place that reminds us that Jesus, our Redeemer, is close to all of us. I thank the religious leaders and civilians present with us, who welcomed me fraternallyand along with them, I also thank the entire community and the faithful.”
“As for me,” he continued, “I wish you all good things in our Lord Jesus. […] May he be a source of peace and joyin our lives, especially for those who are experiencing hardship and suffering.”
When the final blessing was given, the Custos, as he left the parish church, greeted the parishioners, religious and pilgrims passing through one by one. “I’m happy he is here,” said Claire, from the parish of Bethlehem. “He is smiling and friendlyand I welcome him and wish him a lot of good things!”» custodia.org