ANOTHER WISEMAN SEEKS THE CHRIST CHILD:
POPE JOHN PAUL II ENJOYS PRIVATE VISIT THE GROTTO OF THE NATIVITY

March 22 ( EWTNews) After having celebrated Mass in Bethlehem, the Holy Father went to the Franciscan "Casanova" (pilgrims' house) for a private luncheon with the Franciscan community and other invited guests. From there the Pope went into the medieval cloister in front of the Franciscan Parish Church of St. Catherine and was greeted by the religious authorities of Bethlehem. The Holy Father entered into the Church of St. Catherine and from a side door entered into the Gustinian Basilica, which was erected in VI century over the Nativity Grotto.

Accompanying the Pope on the private tour of the Grotto of the Nativity were the Custodians of the Holy Land and the Minister General. Upon reaching the Grotto, the Holy Father knelt and prayed silently for several minutes in front of the spot marked by a silver star indicating the place where Jesus was born of the Virgin as is written in the Gospel of Luke.

The Pope then went to the Chapel of the Magi, which is the traditional site of the manger and again knelt down in personal prayer. Then sitting, he recited the Divine Office all alone. Everyone, even the cameras, left the Pope alone in the lower chapel for over twenty minutes of prayer. This was a very intense time and words cannot express the significance of watching this holy man pray at the birthplace of Christianity and truly have a time for the spiritual pilgrimage he has long desired.