In photos and video: Bethlehem celebrates Christmas

In photos and video: Bethlehem celebrates Christmas

Bethlehem : Palestine | Dec 25, 2011 at 7:30 AM PST
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Palestinian Christians celebrate Christmas

Palestinians and pilgrims take part in day-long celebrations in the West Bank city of Bethlehem awaiting the arrival of the Latin patriarch of Jerusalem, on Saturday, Dec. 24, 2011.

Palestinian Authority officials say attendance at the annual Christmas eve tradition was the highest in decades. The Israeli army estimated that 100,000 visitors entered the city.

Latin Patriarch of Palestine and Jordan Fuad Twal arrived at the Nativity Church in Bethlehem on Saturday, as thousands gathered to celebrate the annual Christmas Mass.

"We ask the baby of Bethlehem to give us the peace we really need, peace in all the countries of the Middle East. We demand peace in the Holy Land," said Twal.

After greeting the crowd, he spent a short time in the church performing an annual blessing.

The congregational held in the 1,500-year-old Church of the Nativity, was attended by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

Latin Patriarch Fouad Twal said during Christmas Eve Midnight Mass at the Church of Nativity in Bethlehem that the creation of a Palestinian state is the main thrust of a just peace in the region.

“I extend a special greeting to President Mahmoud Abbas and congratulate him in his unfaltering efforts to achieve a just peace in the Middle East, a main thrust of which is the creation of a Palestinian State,” said Twal at the Midnight Mass at the Roman Catholic St. Catherine Church.

“I recognize his collaborative efforts with His Majesty, King Abdullah of Jordan, who expressed his great concern for Jerusalem, its holy places and especially its inhabitants,” he said at the Mass attended by Abbas and Jordan’s Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh.

Twal recognized Palestinian efforts to win membership in the United Nations.

“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 neighbours. 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,” he said.

He said that “we may be proud, for among all the continents and countries of the world, God chose Palestine, our beloved land, to be the homeland of the Saviour, the awaited Messiah, who is his Word and the substance of his glory.”

“Our region is undergoing radical changes that affect our present and our future,” said the patriarch. “We cannot stand by as mere spectators. We, the spiritual leaders and those who hold in their hands the destiny of peoples, must do everything in our power to protect our people, to work for their survival, and to realise their aspirations.”

Twal expressed hope that the spirit of Christmas “may put an end to the culture of violence and death and that it may inspire a solution to national and international divisions.”

He said, “History teaches us that the will of the people, with their aspirations to peace and freedom, is stronger than the power of injustice,” expressing hope that physical and psychological walls that men build around themselves may disappear.

“God wants bridges that unite rather than walls that separate that which God has united,” he said. “Let us tear down the walls of our hearts in order to tear down the walls of concrete.”

He said that at this Christmas, “we raise our voices to God, crying out to him in our need. We ask for peace and nothing but peace.

“We ask for peace for the Palestinian people and for the Israeli people.

“We ask for peace, stability and security for the entire Middle East so that our children and their children may live their childhood in innocence, in a healthy environment where they may play together without fear or complex.

“We ask that the road travelled by our ancestors – the Magi and the shepherds – to Bethlehem should remain open, without barriers or hindrance, open to the pilgrims of the whole world, including the Arab world. They will be welcome.”

He said that children of the Holy Land beg their leaders: “Let us grow up as normal children, grant us the time to play in the squares and market places of our towns and villages far from political intrigue.”

However, he added, “Praying for peace is not enough. Good intentions and fine speeches do not suffice. Let us search for peace with all our strength. Peace is given to men of goodwill. It does not come about without true and courageous builders of peace, ready to sacrifice themselves in so noble a cause. Peace is received and granted at the same time.”

Twal prayed for a better economic and political future for the youth in “this troubled Middle East,” and “for all the world leaders and those who govern us, that they may have wisdom, insight and a spirit of selflessness towards their countrymen. We pray for the return of calm and reconciliation in Syria, in Egypt, in Iraq and in North Africa.”

Source: WAFA news and Palestine TV.

For Activities in Bethlehem Please Check here

(Christmas has always been in Bethlehem and it will continue to be)

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to ALL

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Every Christmas, dozens of Palestinian Christians hoping to visit Jerusalem have to wait and see whether their access permit will be issued by the Israeli authorities.
saleh1966 is based in Gaza, Ġazzah, Palestine, and is an Anchor on Allvoices.
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