Christmas pilgrimage to Shepherds’ Field

On December 25th, in Beit Sahour, a small village near Bethlehem, the Franciscan Sanctuary of the Shepherds’ Field was crowded with pilgrims from all over the world, who had come to Bethlehem for the Christmas celebrations.

In the afternoon, the Franciscan Friars continued the ancient tradition of pilgrimage to the Sanctuary under their custody, beginning at the site of the Greek Orthodox Shepherds’ Field, tracing the route taken by the shepherds, and recalling the appearance of the angels over two thousand years ago. During the time of St. Helena, a Church was built, dedicated to the angels who announced the birth of Jesus to the shepherds.

An important place on the pilgrimage route was the Basilica of the Nativity in Bethlehem; the holy place where the prayers of the heart, the community liturgy, silence, all introduce the memory that makes sacred this place where the living traces of the passage of God on earth are collected and transmitted to us over the centuries.

The first moment of the pilgrimage was held at the Orthodox grotto, with the recitation of the Litany of Saints and the reading of the Gospel in Arabic and Latin; then to the Franciscan grotto, where Gloria in excelsis Deo was sung.

In these days, more so than at any other time, the songs of the choir of angels, in a thousand different languages, will rise like incense to the heavens in prayer, asking for peace for men and for the Holy Land.

Beit Sahour lies in the midst of what is referred to as the “fields of Boaz”; it is believed to be the place where the shepherds were visited on the glorious night of the Nativity of Christ.

Although the words of the Gospel do not permit us to determine the exact sight the angels visited the shepherds, the ancient tradition fixes the location as Syar el-Ghanam, “walk of the sheep,” not far from Beit Sahour.
Excavations carried out by Father Virgilio Corbo, in 1951-52, have demonstrated without doubt, that the place was inhabited at the time of the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem.