At the break of day on a cold rainless Christmassy morning, the people of Bethlehem city in the Holy Land woke up to the sound of the Scouts preparing to hit the streets to start the Christmas celebrations.
On 24 December 2017, a large number of locals and foreigners were gathering at Manger Square to welcome the Apostolic Administrator of the Latin Patriarchate, Mons. Pizzaballa and celebrate Christmas, and many others, who came from all around the world, were waiting in line to visit the Church of the Nativity, the birthplace of our lord and savior Jesus Christ.
The Fourteen Pointed Star beneath altar in the Nativity Grotto, marks spot of the birthplace of Jesus Christ by the Blessed Virgin MaryIn addition to the large crowd, the Apostolic Administrator was greeted by civil and religious authorities at Manger Square; he then visited the Basilica of the Nativity, and entered the Basilica of St. Catherine to the rhythm of the Benedictus afterwards, which was also attended by Mahmoud Abbas, President of the State of Palestine.
The Catholic Christmas Parade of 2017 in Bethlehem
The Christmas parade included different Scouts from all over the Holy Land, joined by the winner of Arab Idol 2017, the Palestinian Christian Yacoub Shaheen, a group of Palestinian girls dressed in traditional Palestinian clothing, and many clowns and jugglers. Christmas in the Holy Land puts everyone in Palestine in a blissful and peaceful state. It brings faithful believers from all around the world together with the “Living Stones” of the Holy Land, and it is not exclusively celebrated by Christians; many local Muslims also participate in the festivities of Christmas every year.
What was unusually striking to everyone there is the number of the pilgrims present.
A significant number of Pilgrims have cancelled their pilgrimages due to the eruption of numerous clashes between Palestinians and the Israeli army after the US President, Donald Trump, recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
Consequently, the Apostolic Administrator of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem and Custos of the Holy Land, Fr. Francesco Patton, addressed the pilgrims and encouraged them not to be deterred by the “images of violence” showed by the media.
Mons. Pizzaballa stated, “The pilgrimage to the Holy Land is safe and that the images and the news that you have seen on television do not tell the truth about the beauty, the tranquility and the serenity that, on the contrary, depicts Jerusalem. We therefore invite you to reconsider your pilgrimage to Jerusalem, to make this wonderful experience of faith [and to embrace] this important and marvelous form of solidarity with the Christian community of the Holy Land."
Despite this encouraging invitation, the number of tourist in Bethlehem during Christmas time was lower than usual. Dr. Samir Hazboun, chairman of the Bethlehem chamber of commerce, however, remains optimistic going into the New Year, “Everything went normally today and maybe that will help change the image for good.”
In the midst of the Christmas parade, everyone was filled with Christmas cheer and hope for a brighter future. Shatha Bannoura, one of our family members from Beit Sahour, said, “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.” (Jpost)
Celebrations in the square: Christmas begins in Bethlehem
"Now is the time to rejoice. As Christians, we must rejoice, despite the hardships we face.” - Mons. Pizzaballa
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