The Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem is the chief shepherd of Roman Catholics in the Holy Land.
The Basilica of the Nativity in Bethlehem, which houses the grotto where our Lord was born, is under the control of the Orthodox. A Catholic basilica, the church of St. Catharine, shares a wall with the ancient Nativity church.
The Church of St. Catharine houses the grotto where St. Jerome labored for years to translate the Holy Scriptures. The underground walkway between the two grottoes is sealed off by a locked gate, separating Orthodox territory from Catholic territory.
In his time, St Jerome could walk just a few feet from his study to pray at the place where Christ was born.
Now there is only one man who can do that, and he can only do it once a year. The man is the Latin Patriarch and the time is at midnight on Christmas Eve.
Meanwhile…Today Patriarch Fouad released his Christmas Message. It is very edifying.
It includes this splendid news: Pope Benedict will go on pilgrimage to the Holy Land in May 2009!