The Basilica of the Nativity in Bethlehem has reopened its doors to the faithful limiting access to 50 people at a time.
In the Holy Land, Tuesday 26 May is the turn of the Basilica of the Nativity in Bethlehem where 50 people will be allowed inside at a time.
In an interview with Vatican News, Custos of the Holy Land Fr. Francis Patton, OFM, described this gradual reopening as a sort of a convalescence after a period of silence.
He said that the Holy Land will not be able to welcome pilgrims from other countries until at least the end of the summer, but for the locals this moment represents a time of great joy and hope.
Fr. Patton pointed out that throughout the lockdown the Basilicas have continued to be a place of prayer and worship. He highighted how the extraordinary circumstances have fuelled a strong ecclesial bond and an even more powerful feeling of ecumenism between the Greek, the Latin and the Armenian communities who together, “representing the east and the west, really joined their voices to invoke the Lord for the end of the pandemic.”
Regarding Pope Francis’ exhortation to continue to be prudent and safeguard each other’s health, Fr Patton said he embraces that message wholeheartedly.
He also reflected on the fact that “it shouldn’t take a pandemic to make us attentive towards the most vulnerable people“ in our societies.
“From now on, what we are trying to do is to ensure prudent and necessary measures. But then we have to look forward to going back to normality,” he said.
As we await effective therapies for the virus, he concluded, it is important to move beyond the fear of contagion “because that would mean no longer living authentic human relationships.”
“We risk becoming people, who, out of fear, do not sleep at night, no longer shake hands with the other, no longer kiss their children. And that would mean entering a phase of ‘anaesthetic anthropology’ and it would be a terrible result. So prudence yes, respect yes, excessive fear no, anxiety no, and certainly not thinking that we should continue in this way forever.”