In Bethlehem, Palestine, the celebration of Christmas began early. In the early hours of the morning, the city was awakened by the music of the Scouts, whose mission it is to bring life through music and to warm people up on cold mornings. Bethlehem, with a population of 30,00 people, welcomes tens of thousands of pilgrims who come for the Christmas celebrations.
At the Church of the Nativity, a large crowd of faithful from all over the world was already waiting to visit the quintessential holy place, the grotto where Jesus was born 2,000 years ago.
“It feels like the first time: Christmas is always Christmas and experiencing it in Bethlehem is the best you could wish for. From the city of Bethlehem, where the Prince of Peace was born, I hope you can also believe in this peace. Peace exists. We must seek it out and make it a reality.”
"We are so happy to be here, to celebrate the birth of Our Lord together with our brothers and sisters in Christ in the Holy Land, thus supporting the Christians in the Holy Land. It is truly a blessing! We are blessed to have the opportunity to be here.”
To get to Bethlehem, it is necessary to pass through the wall that separates Israel from the Palestinian territories. Retracing the ancient path of the patriarchs, the procession, led by the Apostolic Administrator of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, Mons. Pizzaballa, entered through the door near the Tomb of Rachel, which only gets opened on special occasions.
H.E. Mons. PIERBATTISTA PIZZABALLA, ofm
Apostolic Administrator of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem
"Now is the time to rejoice. As Christians, we must rejoice, despite the hardships we face.”
During his pilgrimage to the Holy Land in 2014, Pope Francis also stopped at the wall, as he headed toward Manger Square. He got out of the car, touched the concrete barrier and remained silent and in prayer for a long time.
At Manger Square, the Apostolic Administrator was welcomed by civil and religious authorities and made a solemn entrance into the Basilica of the Nativity. To the rhythm of the Benedictus, he then entered the Basilica of St. Catherine, where first vespers were prayed.
From Bethlehem of Ephrath, the announcement began: “For a child was born to us, a son has been given to us and he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:5).
Christian man from Galilee
“This is the most beautiful day of the year, because it conveys peace, love, brotherhood and cooperation among peoples. Christmas invites everyone to come here to experience love, peace and joy among the peoples of the Middle East.”
Christian woman from Beit Sahour
“Jesus' birth begins in our hearts, especially for us, children of this land, where Christianity was born. The birth of Christ brings joy into our hearts, despite the difficult circumstances in which we live. As a Palestinian, I hope to live in peace and justice like everyone else around the world.”