Christmas festivities begin in West Bank town of Bethlehem

International News

A visitor lights a candle at the Church of the Nativity built on top of the site where Christians believe Jesus Christ was born on Christmas Eve, in the West Bank City of Bethlehem, Tuesday, Dec. 24, 2019. (AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed)

BETHLEHEM, West Bank (AP) – Thousands of Christians have descended on Bethlehem, the traditional birthplace of Jesus, for Christmas Eve celebrations in this West Bank town.

The top Catholic cleric arrived in Bethlehem from Jerusalem ahead of the midnight Mass at the Church of the Nativity, built in the place where Christians believe Jesus was born.

Christian Armenian pray inside the Grotto of the Church of the Nativity, traditionally believed by Christians to be the birthplace of Jesus Christ, in the West Bank city of Bethlehem on Christmas Eve, Tuesday, Dec. 24, 2019. (AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed)

Palestinian scouts paraded past throngs of visiting pilgrims in Manger Square, which was bedecked with lights and a large Christmas tree.

Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa, the head Catholic cleric in the Holy Land, said that he draws hope from the “desire, especially in the youth, to do something for their societies, families.” 

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