Bethlehem: Michel Platini, president of the UEFA, came on pilgrimage | Custodia Terrae Sanctae

Bethlehem: Michel Platini, president of the UEFA, came on pilgrimage

During his tour of Israel and the Palestinian Territories in the exercise of his functions as president of the UEFA (Union of European Football Associations), Michel Platini expressed the desire to go to the church of the Nativity in Bethlehem.

Personalities in political life or in secular society often come to the holy places without it really being known whether their visit is a religious act, simply tourism, or pure courtesy.

Michel Platini was welcomed on the basilica’s square by the children who are footballers at the sports academy of the Custody of the Holy Land. He greeted them like a captain greets his team mates, and he also greeted the mayor of Bethlehem, Doctor Victor Batarseh, and Brother Ibrahim Faltas; but he told his guide, Brother Stéphane Milovitch, clearly that he was coming as a pilgrim.

How difficult it is for someone well known to come as an anonymous pilgrim! The crowd of journalists pressed around Michel Platini, leaving little space for recollection.

For his part, the European football star humbly asked the Franciscans to forgive him for being the cause of such attraction and distraction from the essential. To his guide, who summed up for him the events connected with the birth of Christ, the celebrated footballer whispered: “You know, I know the story well; my mother was a catechist.”

Touched by the academy’s attentiveness in offering him a football made of mother-of-pearl, he nevertheless let Friar Stéphane know that he would be happy to bring a rosary back to his mother, who had not been able to join him. It was a joy for Friar Jerzy Kraj, the guardian of Bethlehem, to give it to him at the end of the reception that was organized in his honor. Honors, which he and other well known persons would happily dispense with when all they want is a time of recollection in the holy places.