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Franciscan leader tours Jerusalem and Bethlehem for first time in over a decade

IDF Civil Administration and police accompany Massimo Fusarelli to capital, West Bank city; Israel gearing up for influx of tourists during Christmas holiday

Minister General of the Franciscan Order, Massimo Fusarelli, speaks at the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, October 20, 2021. (Screenshot: Youtube/Christian Media Center)
Minister General of the Franciscan Order, Massimo Fusarelli, speaks at the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, October 20, 2021. (Screenshot: Youtube/Christian Media Center)

During a tour of Israel, the leader of the Franciscan Christian religious order visited sites in Jerusalem and Bethlehem for the first time in 12 years, the military’s Civil Administration announced Saturday.

The Israel Defense Forces’ Civil Administration and the West Bank’s Etzion Brigade, in cooperation with the Israel Police and the Border Police, coordinated and accompanied Franciscan leader Massimo Fusarelli’s visit to the two holy cities over the weekend.

“We were happy to coordinate and host [Fusarelli] in Jerusalem and coordinate his entry into Bethlehem,” Lt. Col. Tali Croitoru-Aharon, head of the Coordination and Liaison Directorate in Bethlehem, said.

“We attribute great importance to the observance of religious worship even in these complex days, in light of the coronavirus,” Croitoru-Aharon said.

She added that unlike last year, Christmas celebrations in the West Bank city would be held as usual.

“Therefore, we have made great efforts in coordination with the Israeli tourism and health ministries to open Bethlehem for tourists from the beginning of November, with the intention of bringing a significant boost to the tourism industry, which will lead to improving the economic situation in Bethlehem,” Croitoru-Aharon said.

Israel’s borders are set to reopen starting November 1 to tourists who are vaccinated against COVID-19 or have recovered from the disease.

Minister General of the Order Fusarelli and Vicar General of the Order Isauro Covili arrived in Israel for a visit on Wednesday, according to the Christian Media Center.

Fusarelli’s tour is his first since being elected in June, and it will include visiting various sites in Israel and the West Bank where Franciscans are engaged.

“This is indeed the first official visit I have made to a province, and not just any province, but to the Custody of the Holy Land, the ‘pearl’ of our missions,” he said, according to the Christian Media Center.

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