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Monday, Apr 21, 2014

Over 100,000 Celebrate Christmas in Bethlehem

  • (Photo: REUTERS/Ammar Awad)
    A general view shows celebrations for Christmas near the Church of the Nativity in West Bank town of Bethlehem December 24, 2011.
December 25, 2011|10:47 am

The town of Bethlehem where Jesus was born witnessed the highest turnout of tourists and Christian pilgrims in more than a decade amid the weekend’s Christmas celebrations at the ancient Church of the Nativity.

As the night fell in this Palestinian West Bank town, the Israeli military in charge of monitoring people’s movement counted some 100,000 visitors, which included foreigners and Arab Christians from Israel, according to The Associated Press.

Last year, Bethlehem attracted a crowd of about 70,000.

The Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Fuad Twal, who also travelled to Bethlehem, led the midnight mass at the Church of the Nativity, built over the cave that is traditionally seen as the birthplace of Jesus. Manger Square, where the church is situated, had Christmas lights all around and donned a 50-foot-tall Christmas tree.

At the mass, Patriarch Twal prayed for peace and reconciliation in Syria, Egypt, Iraq and North Africa. “O Child of Bethlehem, in this New Year, we place in your hands this troubled Middle East and, above all, our youth full of legitimate aspirations, who are frustrated by the economic and political situation, and in search of a better future,” he said.

The protests that began across the Middle East and North Africa in December 2010 ousted authoritarian regimes in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya even as revolutions are taking in several other nations in the region. However, it is feared that the ensuing Islamist surge may result in efforts to Islamize these countries and new restrictions on civil and religious freedoms. The revolutions have also witnessed killing of tens of thousands: about 30,000 in Libya, more than 4,000 in Syria, about 1,800 in Yemen, at least 900 in Egypt, and over 233 in Tunisia.

Twal also acknowledged the attendance of Palestinian Authority president Mahmud Abbas at the mass, praising “his unfaltering efforts to achieve a just peace in the Middle East, a main thrust of which is the creation of a Palestinian State.” “The Palestinians have recently turned to the United Nations in the hope of finding a just solution to the conflict, with the intention of living in peace and in safety with their neighbors,” he said. “They have been asked to re-engage in a failed peace process. This process has left a bitter taste of broken promises and of mistrust.”

Outside the church, many veiled Muslim women could be seen enjoying the evening with their families. The church is the main tourist attraction in Palestine, which gets about 2 million tourists each year.

The church is only about five miles from Jerusalem. The Palestinian Authority gained control over the city of Bethlehem in 1995. The church, completed by Emperor Constantine in 333 AD, was destroyed in the early 6th century. It was rebuilt between 527 and 565 AD.

As the night fell in this Palestinian West Bank town, the Israeli military in charge of monitoring people’s movement counted some 100,000 visitors, which included foreigners and Arab Christians from Israel, according to The Associated Press.

Last year, Bethlehem attracted a crowd of about 70,000.

The Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Fuad Twal, who also travelled to Bethlehem, led the midnight mass at the Church of the Nativity, built over the cave that is traditionally seen as the birthplace of Jesus. Manger Square, where the church is situated, had Christmas lights all around and donned a 50-foot-tall Christmas tree.

At the mass, Patriarch Twal prayed for peace and reconciliation in Syria, Egypt, Iraq and North Africa. “O Child of Bethlehem, in this New Year, we place in your hands this troubled Middle East and, above all, our youth full of legitimate aspirations, who are frustrated by the economic and political situation, and in search of a better future,” he said.

The protests that began across the Middle East and North Africa in December 2010 ousted authoritarian regimes in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya even as revolutions are taking in several other nations in the region. However, it is feared that the ensuing Islamist surge may result in efforts to Islamize these countries and new restrictions on civil and religious freedoms. The revolutions have also witnessed killing of tens of thousands: about 30,000 in Libya, more than 4,000 in Syria, about 1,800 in Yemen, at least 900 in Egypt, and over 233 in Tunisia.

Twal also acknowledged the attendance of Palestinian Authority president Mahmud Abbas at the mass, praising “his unfaltering efforts to achieve a just peace in the Middle East, a main thrust of which is the creation of a Palestinian State.” “The Palestinians have recently turned to the United Nations in the hope of finding a just solution to the conflict, with the intention of living in peace and in safety with their neighbors,” he said. “They have been asked to re-engage in a failed peace process. This process has left a bitter taste of broken promises and of mistrust.”

Outside the church, many veiled Muslim women could be seen enjoying the evening with their families. The church is the main tourist attraction in Palestine, which gets about 2 million tourists each year.

The church is only about five miles from Jerusalem. The Palestinian Authority gained control over the city of Bethlehem in 1995. The church, completed by Emperor Constantine in 333 AD, was destroyed in the early 6th century. It was rebuilt between 527 and 565 AD.

Source URL : http://www.christianpost.com/news/over-100000-celebrate-christmas-in-bethlehem-65667/