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"The angel said to Mary: Peace to you O full of grace"

Dear brothers and sons, the sons of Galilee, loved ones,

It is beautiful that we meet this year too in this occasion, the feast of Annunciation, near this place which witnessed the visit of the angel to Virgin Mary. With all love and gratitude I greet you all, old and young, with the tenderness of Christ, Virgin Mary and St. Joseph. As I carry in the Latin Patriarchate the responsibility of "the mother of all churches", I am reminded of the memory of the Annunciation, when "God sent the angel Gabriel to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, from the House of David, and the name of the Virgin was Mary." Here in this city, it occurred and has become a reality. Hence, we are fortunate to have the opportunity to be present together today.

The miracle of the Incarnation in this city

In this city occurred the greatest miracle of the incarnation of the Word. In this city, God became one of us, He lived among us, just like us in everything except sin. Jesus is not a human that we raise to the level of God but He is the Incarnated God who never lost His nature as a God.

The meaning of the Incarnation to us today, in Nazareth!

“The incarnation of the word” means that God is close to us, God loves us and for us He came to our land to bless it and to give us life, blessings and salvation, in order for us to move forward in the path of faith, hope and love. Yes, we ask God to keep this city a place for faith and not for indifference and materialistic interests. We thank the Lord Jesus Christ for the blessing of your attachment to him and to his mother, defending our Christian symbols from humiliation, ridicule and disdain. I personally thank God for the faith and for your affiliation, and I ask God, who began to work in you, to continue to do so.

Christ came to Nazareth, and the other cities, and blessed us and therefore, we must be worthy of this blessing and convey the True Faith to the younger generations to follow the Christ who came with Mary and Joseph to Nazareth and was obeying to them, when growing in age, wisdom and grace. 
This is what we wish for our young men and women to come forward in knowledge, virtue, piety and fear of God, as they receive our complete appreciation and love.

The Papal visit this year

These days we look forward to the visit of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI to this city, and to the rest of the Holy Land. Here I would like to draw on the many efforts made by the mayor and the people of this church in their respective positions, in order for the city of Nazareth to be present during the welcoming of His Holiness in the mass which will send a message of love and justice between peoples.
The Pope is coming in person to visit us, to listen to us, to pray for us and with us and work towards the prosperity of the Church of Christ in its homeland.

As you know, the visit of His Holiness the Pope will start in Jordan on the eighth of May and will end on the eleventh of May 2009. This visit is the first stage of the journey undertaken by His Holiness to the Holy Land until the fifteenth of May, which also included a visit to Jerusalem, Bethlehem and Nazareth. This visit is the third papal visit, after the two visits made by Pope Paul VI in January 1964 and Pope John Paul II in March 2000.

As the superior of more than one billion Catholics in the world, His Holiness the Pope wants to meet Christians, Catholic and non-Catholics, in the Holy Land. His Holiness shows great interest in the Christians of the Holy Land who continue to suffer with their brothers and sisters of different religions as a result of the absence of peace. Thus, this visit shows sympathy and support for those seeking to achieve peace and build a better world governed by peace, justice, security and prosperity.

This visit comes after the exhausting events in the region as a result of the recent war in Gaza. The Pope's visit at this time is also an invitation to find peaceful solutions in the region.

The goal behind this visit is also spiritual, for His Holiness, as a pilgrim is coming here to pray in our sacred sites with the believers.
This pilgrimage highlights to the world the importance of our sacred sites associated with our Christian roots, and is an invitation from His Holiness to the Christians in the world to come on pilgrimages to the Holy Land in order to enhance their faith and devoutness to Jesus. It is also an invitation to the Christians in our country and especially for the young people to repent and renew their faith in the thought and act alike, especially in this time of fasting. We the people of the country are invited to be an example for other Christians through our love and our commitment to our holy land.

Accordingly, we are all invited to participate in the warm welcome of His Holiness, as we are known for our good reception and hospitality; we are invited to participate in prayer with him in various places of pilgrimage which will be visited, in order to seek blessings from God the Almighty.

Here in Nazareth, His Holiness will place the first stone of the new center of the Holy Family, which will be built.

Peace peace!
As the Angel greeted Virgin Mary, the daughter of Nazareth, I greet you, asking God to preserve peace in your hearts. Amen.

† Patriarch Fouad Twal



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