ALL EYES OF THE CHURCH FOCUS ON NAZARETH:
POPE CELEBRATES MASS AT THE BASILICA OF THE ANNUNCIATION
March 25 (EWTNews) As the Pope traveled in the popemobile through the
streets of Nazareth, he was welcomed by thousands who crowded the streets cheering, waving
flags, and throwing rose petals. Just as those lining the streets were excited to see him,
the Pope must have been just as excited to be in Nazareth today.
In fact, The Solemnity of the Annunciation, which is the Feast Day
the Church celebrates today, was the reason for choosing the dates of the Holy
Fathers pilgrimage to Nazareth. As the Pope expressed in his homily, "on this
day, 25th March in the year 2000, the Solemnity of the Annunciation in the Year of the
Great Jubilee, the eyes of the whole Church turn to Nazareth. I have longed to come back
to the town of Jesus. We are gathered to celebrate the great mystery accomplished here two
thousand years ago. The Evangelist Luke situates the event clearly in time and place:
In the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called
Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph... The virgin's name was Mary
Upon entering the Basilica of the Annunciation, the Holy
Father was welcomed by Br. Giacomo Bini ofm, the Minister General of the Franciscan
Community. The Pope was then taken to the Grotto of the Annunciation, the house where Mary
lived and where the Angel Gabriel appeared. It was here where Mary said "fiat".
Entering inside the grotto he kissed the altar set up there and under which dominate the
words "Hic Verbum Caro Factum Est" (Here the Word was made flesh).
His Holiness then knelt down in personal prayer and then offered to Our Lady a gold rose
as a sign of his love and devotion to the Virgin Mary, Mother of God who here accepted her
mission to give to the world the Savior and the Son of God.
Afterwards, the Pope went upstairs to join the 2,000 people gathered
to celebrate Mass at the Basilica of the Annunciation. This Mass was chosen as the
location for the major address of the Popes pilgrimage to the Holy Land because of
the Incarnation, when the Word became flesh. It is a very important moment for all of
salvation history. The Holy Father explained in his homily, "The divine plan is
gradually revealed in the Old Testament, particularly in the words of the Prophet Isaiah:
The Lord himself will give you a sign. It is this: the virgin is with child and will
soon give birth to a child whom she will call Emmanuel (7:14). EmmanuelGod
with us. In these words, the unique event that was to take place in Nazareth in the
fullness of time is foretold, and it is this event that we are celebrating here with
intense joy and happiness."
As the opening procession began, a long applause
welcomed His Holiness, an applause which went on even during the opening
hymn where the phrases "John Paul II we love you echoed all
around". Mass started by His Holiness greeting people with
"the Lord be with you" in Arabic. The Latin Patriarch of
Jerusalem, Michel Sabbah, introduced the liturgy. The Latin Patriarch is
also native of Nazareth. The city of Nazareth, in the words of the
Patriarch, asks for a blessing and peace to overcome the conflicts and
confrontations between Christians and Moslems and in the name of all
those who live here he welcomed all.
The Pope began his homily, "In order to in
order to understand what took place in Nazareth two thousand years ago,
we must return to the Reading from the Letter to the Hebrews. It tells
us, in obedience to the Father's will, the Eternal Word comes among us
to offer the sacrifice that surpasses all the sacrifices offered under
the former Covenant. His is the eternal and perfect sacrifice which
redeems the world."
The footsteps of Christ that the Popes pilgrimage to the Holy
Land has followed, began with Abraham and brings us today to Nazareth. With this,
the Pope compares Abraham and Mary, "both of whom receive a wonderful promise
from God. Abraham was to be the father of a son, from whom there would come a great
nation. Mary is to be the Mother of a Son who would be the Messiah, the Anointed One. For
both Abraham and Mary, the divine promise comes as something completely unexpected. God
disrupts the daily course of their lives, overturning its settled rhythms and conventional
expectations. For both Abraham and Mary, the promise seems impossible. Like Abraham, Mary
is asked to say yes to something that has never happened before. Like Abraham, Mary must
walk through darkness, in which she must simply trust the One who called her Mary asks not
whether the promise is possible, but only how it will be fulfilled. It comes as no
surprise, therefore, when finally she utters her fiat: "I am the handmaid of
the Lord. Let what you have said be done to me" (Lk 1:38). With these words,
Mary shows herself the true daughter of Abraham, and she becomes the Mother of Christ and
Mother of all believers."
So, today, the Pope added, "What do we, pilgrims on our way
into the Third Christian Millennium, ask of the Mother of God? I pray, first, for a great
renewal of faith in all the children of the Church. I ask the Holy Family to inspire all
Christians to defend the family against present-day threats to its nature, its stability
and its mission. I ask Mary to help the Church everywhere to preach the "good
news" to the poor, as he did (cf. Lk 4:18). In Nazareth where Jesus began his
public ministry, I ask her to teach us the way of humble and joyful obedience to the
Gospel in the service of our brothers and sisters, without preferences and without
The Pope concluded his homily praying, "To the Holy Family I
entrust the efforts of Christians and of all people of good will to defend life and to
promote respect for the dignity of every human being. To Mary, the Theotokos, the
great Mother of God, I consecrate the families of the Holy Land, the families of the
At the end of the Eucharist, after the closing prayer His Holiness
prayed the Angelus with the Assembly present. The Pope then handed to representatives of
the local Church the acts of the Diocesan Synod which was celebrated last year. The final
blessing followed. Then, while the choir sung and the assembly applauded His Holiness was
greeted by the authorities of the other Christian Churches present in Nazareth while the
local community presented His Holiness with gifts.
After Mass, the Holy Father left Nazareth and headed for Jerusalem.
In the afternoon, the Holy Father will greet the Consul General of the Apostolic
delegation in Jerusalem followed by a private visit to the Basilica of the Garden of
Gethsemane. The day will conclude with an ecumenical encounter in the Throne Room of the
Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem.