Order Helps Descendants of Bethlehem Shepherds

Cardinal Recommends Spiritual Visit to Nativity Scene

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ROME, DEC. 21, 2010 (Zenit.org).- As our thoughts naturally turn to Bethlehem in the final days before Christmas, Cardinal John Foley is urging a manifestation of solidarity with the descendants of those who lived in Bethlehem some 2,000 years ago and were among the first to adore God-made-man.

The cardinal made this appeal Saturday in Rome's Basilica of St. John Lateran, during a Mass of investiture for the new members of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem. 

Cardinal Foley is grand master of the order, which is dedicated to, among other things, helping Christians of the Holy Land.

"In these days before Christmas, it is easy to remember the Holy Land," the American cardinal said. "Our thoughts go spontaneously to Bethlehem and to Mary and Joseph."

This past year, members of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem sent almost €8 million ($10.7 million) in donations to the Holy Land. Part of the support goes to financing 45 schools attended by some 19,000 children, regardless of religion.

"We have heard the Scriptures so many times in this period, that we almost see the stable in which Jesus was born; hear the singing of the angels, and see the shepherds kneeling before the Child Jesus," Cardinal Foley reflected. "But when you think of the shepherds of Bethlehem, you must think that the persons we help in the Holy Land are precisely descendants of those shepherds. We help the descendants of the first followers of Christ, and some of them certainly are descendants of the shepherds who adored the Child Jesus."

Cardinal Foley proposed a spiritual visit to "that sacred place, the stable of Bethlehem," in order to "together with the shepherds, adore the Child Jesus."

"You can pray for peace for his Holy Land," he said, "peace and progress in holiness for your lives; you can promise to help Jesus' cousins, who at present reside in Bethlehem and in the whole of the Holy Land and who are the descendants of the first followers of Jesus, the descendants of the first Christians who saw in Jesus Christ the Emmanuel, God-with-us."