Christians from all around the world gathered in Manger Square in Bethlehem yesterday to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ in the ancient town of West Bank where he was born.
For the Palestinians, hosting the many tourists who ventured to their town the holiday season was especially joyous as the United Nations recently recognized Palestine as an independent state. Previously the hardship of Israeli occupation had clouded Christmas Eve celebrations.
The day’s festivities led up to Midnight Mass at St. Catherine’s Church, next to the fourth century Church of the Nativity said to be built over the grotto where Jesus was born.
Meanwhile in the Vatican, Pope Benedict XVI lit a peace candle and led Christmas Eve Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica, and prayed for peace and freedom between Israel and Palestine.