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The Franciscans’ Bethlehem March accompanies young people in their preparation for Christmas

On December 15, 2017, about 60 young people participated in the Franciscan March in Bethlehem in preparation for Christmas. They followed the same path as the Holy Family, to the place where Jesus was born.

After a full morning of walking, came one of the most awaited moments: a visit to the Basilica of the Nativity. Visitors can enter through the small door that in the past was more of a security measure. Today, it represents the humility of those who bow before the Son of God who became Man. Then, they can go down to the grotto of the Nativity, where, amid songs and prayers, the characteristics of this sacred place are contemplated and meditated upon.

ULA SHAHEEN
Student
“Today's meeting helps us to experience the spirituality of Christmas. Up north, it is not easy to have this experience. So we came here, to this Christian city, to immerse ourselves in Christmas.”

After more than 2.5 kilometers of walking, the group reaches the village of Beit Sahour, where the Shepherds’ Field is located. Here one can almost hear the voice of the angels that once proclaimed: “Glory to God in the highest heaven and peace on earth to people of good will.”

JAD ASFOUR
Franciscan youngster from Bethlehem
“These meetings are particularly important among young people, because they allow them to become familiar with the episodes narrated in the Bible, especially those of shepherds, who chose to leave their field and all they had to meet the Lord Jesus. We all have concerns or important things to do, but we took the time to walk along the same path. Things are easier now than then, but we can have an idea of how it must have been for the shepherds to keep walking and following this path toward Jesus Christ.”

The person in charge of the pilgrimage showed that the march’s purpose was to guide young people toward the true meaning of Christmas, so that they do not remain attached to only the marginal aspects. In the shepherds, they saw an example of faith and openness. Despite not understanding every word, they went to the place pointed out by the angels and there they met the Virgin Mary, St. Joseph and the Baby Jesus in the manger.

Br. IMAD KAMEL, ofm
Head of Youth Ministry in the Holy Land
“Young people have a special place in our hearts as Franciscan friars. We are at the service of those who live in Jesus’ land because they represent hope and they will continue the march. We started by preparing a theatrical show that highlighted the center of the whole universe--the Child Jesus--surrounded by the Virgin Mary and St. Joseph but that focused mainly on the shepherds. They are the simplest ones, who were chosen by God to be the first to receive the good news that God, the King of the universe and of all things visible and invisible, became a man like us in everything but sin.”

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