Thousands mark Christmas in West Bank town of Bethlehem

Christian pilgrims pray inside the Grotto of the Church of Nativity, traditionally believed by Christians to be the birthplace of Jesus Christ, in the West Bank town of Bethlehem on Christmas Eve, Tuesday, Dec. 24, 2019. (AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed)

BETHLEHEM, West Bank (AP) – Thousands of Christians descended for Christmas Eve celebrations in the West Bank town of Bethlehem, the traditional birthplace of Jesus. Visitors converged Tuesday on the town’s large Christmas tree in Manger Square, just beside the spot where Christians believe Jesus was born.

Palestinian marching bands greeted visitors with the sound of drums and bagpipes filling the cool, clear air.

The Palestinian tourism minister says this year’s celebrations capped the most successful year in history for Palestinian tourism.

In his homily at Midnight Mass, the Vatican’s top clergyman in the Holy Land lamented the region’s deep divisions, but praised “those who still have a desire to love mankind.”

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