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Tuesday, January 18, 2022
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In COVID-19’s shadow, Bethlehem hosts traditional Christmas mass

Church bells rang on Saturday (December 25) in Bethlehem as dozens gathered for a scaled down traditional Christmas Day mass.

The Jerusalem Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa, led prayers at the Church of Nativity’s ancient prayer hall, believed by Christians to be the birthplace of Jesus.

The celebration was overshadowed by COVID gloom after Israel’s decision to shut out foreign travellers in order to try to prevent the Omicron variant taking hold.

This has made it almost impossible to pilgrims to arrive in the West Bank town, traditionally known as Jesus birthplace.

In its last pre-pandemic winter, in 2019/20, Bethlehem hosted 3.5 million visitors.

In striking contrast to what would normally be a frenetic scene, a relatively small crowd of faithful greeted the patriarch at Manger Square on Friday (December 24) for a second year in a row.

Israel’s decision to shut out foreign travelers in order to try to prevent the Omicron variant taking hold, has made it almost impossible to pilgrims to arrive in the West Bank town, traditionally known as Jesus birthplace.

In its last pre-pandemic winter, in 2019/20, Bethlehem hosted 3.5 million visitors.

(Production: Roleen Tafakji, Mohammed Abu Ganeyeh, Yosri Al-Jamal)

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