Christmas Eve Mass held in Bethlehem
A Christmas Eve Mass has been held by in Bethlehem, the traditional birthplace of Jesus.
Christian pilgrims from across the world came to Bethlehem to celebrate the birth of our Lord.
In a homily, Latin Patriarch Fouad Twal called on Jews, Muslims and Christians to “live together as equals”.
Referring to violence in Gaza and Jerusalem, Patriarch Fouad Twal said he hoped 2015 “would be better than this difficult year”.
Thousands of pilgrims earlier crowded into Manger Square to watch a procession led by Patriarch Fouad Twal.
The midnight Mass took place in the Church of the Nativity which marks the spot where Christians believe Jesus was born in the West Bank town.
Patriarch Fouad Twal, the most senior Roman Catholic cleric in the Holy Land, said the region had become “a land of conflict”.
“I hope next year there will be no separation wall and I hope we will have bridges of peace instead,” he said, referring to the barrier Israel is building in and around the West Bank, which separates Bethlehem from Jerusalem. Israel says the barrier is necessary to prevent attacks by militants.
“Peace comes from justice and we have a cause which we hope will be solved soon,” the Patriarch added.
His sentiment was echoed by Palestinian Tourism Minister Rula Maayah.
“Our message this Christmas is a message of peace like every year, but what we added this year is that all we want from Christmas is justice,” the minister said.
“Justice for our people, justice for our case and the right to live like all other people in the world in our independent state without the occupation.”
Patriarch Fouad Twal urged Christians not to forget the residents of Gaza, where up to 19,600 families displaced by the 50-day conflict between Israel and Palestinian militants are still in need of medium- and long-term shelter, and the people of Syria and Iraq, who are struggling to cope with a civil war and the advance of jihadist militants from Islamic State (ISIS).
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