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Bethlehem – The Patriarch’s procession opens the Christmas festivities

Bethlehem – The Patriarch’s procession opens the Christmas festivities

Bethlehem – the Patriarch’s solemn entry into Bethlehem highlights the day of December 24th.  The procession, so well prepared and organized in its finest details, opens the start of Christmas festivities.

Leaving Jerusalem around noontime, H.B. Fouad Twal makes a first stop at the Greek Orthodox Monastery Mar Elias where he is welcomed by the faithful of Beit Jala. Following the ancient track of the Patriarchs, he proceeds in the direction of Rachel’s Tomb, where Christian and official figures from Beit Sahur and Bethlehem are waiting for him.

Getting to the birth town of Christ under warm winter sunshine, the Patriarch is officially welcomed by Vera Baboun, Christian Mayor of Bethlehem; by Parish Priest of St Catherine’s Church, Fr Nerwan Nasser; guardian of the Franciscan Convent, Fr Ricardo Bustos, several public and official figures, scout boys, Christian and Muslim citizens, pilgrims – all in a very festive mood.

The convoy proceeds then up to the square in front of St Catherine’s church to sing the Te Deum.  The first Vespers, presided by the Patriarch, are then sung in Latin.  At 4 pm time for the daily procession towards the Grotto of the Nativity.

Midnight Mass, preceded by the Office of Readings, starts around 23h15, by the opening of the Holy Door of Mercy (lateral door of St Catherine’s Church); to be concelebrated by some 150 priests offered for the victims of violence and terrorism the world all over.  Then the presenceof Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is announced, together with his Prime Minister Rami Hamadallah, Jordanian Minister of Tourism Nayef al Fayez; consuls general of France, Belgium, Italy and Spain, as well as the consul of US.

When Mass is over, the Latin Patriarch carries in procession the statue of Child Jesus until the Manger.

Happy and blessed holidays to everybody

Photo : Andrea Krogmann