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Franchising to Evangelize

By Jesús Colina

NAZARETH, Israel (Zenit) - The construction of the Mary of Nazareth International Center is part of an evangelization project to publicize the mystery of the Mother of God through technology, explains the project's director.

In this interview with us, Olivier Bonnassies speaks about the scope of the project that aims to spread knowledge and love of Mary worldwide through associate centers.

Q: What is the Mary of Nazareth project?

Bonnassies: On Mar. 25, 2007, feast of the Annunciation, the first stone of the Mary of Nazareth International Center was laid in Nazareth.

The [then] Latin patriarch of Jerusalem, Michel Sabbah, accompanied by bishops of all the traditional Christian churches in the Holy Land, presided over this moving ceremony, during which the apostolic nuncio transmitted Benedict XVI's blessing.

"Never before had the Christian churches of the Holy Land, Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant, joined in this way to support a project. It is a small miracle!" said Bishop Marcuzzo of Nazareth, sent as a delegate by the episcopal conference of the Holy Land to support the project.

And, he added: "This initiative makes me very happy; it will be useful for the Church in the Holy Land, for pilgrims and also for the universal Church, because it will motivate us in a very practical way to address the great mystery of the Incarnation, and Mary's sublime place in the heart of the Christian community!"

Work is under way to actualize the center, which will offer pilgrims, tourists and the inhabitants of the Holy Land a unique place, with several modules, not only to discover Mary but also the principles of the Christian faith. They will [be completed] in just over a year; the inauguration is foreseen in 2010.

Q: What is the project's objective?

Bonnassies: The production of the Nazareth Center is the first stage of a great project of evangelization that seeks to help the public discover the grandeur of the mystery of the Mother of God, as well as all the beauty, truth and profundity of the Christian faith, using above all the different means of communication.

In the spirit of St. Louis Marie Grignon de Montfort, we wish to make the Virgin Mary known and to promote love of [her] so that, through her, Jesus is better known and loved. "Jesus Christ came to the world through the Most Holy Virgin Mary and also through her, he must reign in the world," the saint said in his "Treatise of True Devotion."

In a second phase, the Mary of Nazareth project will unfold in the whole world, through the creation of associate Marian Centers, which will use the contents elaborated by the Nazareth Center.

Three are already planned, in Lebanon, Brazil and Poland, with increasing local funding for the multiplication of multimedia productions distributed in these Marian Centers, for traditional means of communication, and the display of Web pages referring to the Virgin Mary and the whole of Christian faith in association with other movements.

Q: Have you been successful already in funding the whole project?

Bonnassies: Unfortunately, not yet. The whole project will cost €9.5 million [$12 million]; we have already obtained €6.5 million [$8.2 million], but €3 million [$3.8 million] are still lacking to be able to finish the work in the five buildings we have purchased and to finance the production of the first series of multimedia contents of great quality, which is already under way.

Q: Do you think that this project answers a current need?

Bonnassies: Yes, because this world needs to rediscover Mary.

We find ourselves today in a paradoxical situation: Most people do not know the principles of the Christian faith, but the world has a great thirst for truth. It has lost its compass and doesn't know where to find it.

Christians, who really have something to say, magnificent treasures to transmit, showing to what degree their faith is well founded, true, strong and beautiful, must seek all means to make themselves heard by the great public.

The Mary of Nazareth project was born from the need to be furnished with new and adapted means to make known and to love in a renewed way the woman who leads to Christ.

Q: What are the strengths you count on for the future?

Bonnassies: There are several, thank God. The first strong point is that the cornerstone of this project was laid in Nazareth, just in front of the basilica of the Annunciation, where everything began, in the holy place of the Incarnation, where the Eternal entered into time and where Jesus, Mary and Joseph lived a hidden life for 30 years.

The fact that this project begins in Nazareth is an opportunity and a privilege -- because half a million pilgrims come here every year -- to then spread to the ...

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