Later he will lead Midnight Mass in the famous Church of the Nativity. But the Vatican’s most senior representative in the Holy Land has already got Christmas celebrations underway.
Latin Patriarch Fouad Twal has arrived in Bethlehem, having completed a procession from Jerusalem. Palestinian youth groups put on a parade for the thousands of pilgrims present. In his first Christmas message on Tuesday, the new Patriarch urged an end to what he called “occupation” and “injustice” in the region. Appointed as Patriarch in June, Archbishop Twal slammed Israeli settlement building which he said was strangling Jerusalem. Forces loyal to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas are providing security in Bethlehem, with hundreds of officers brought in specially from Ramallah and Jericho.