Dec. 24th; to the peeling of the bells of the church of the Latin Patriarch, Msgnr.
Dec. 24th; to the peeling of the bells of the church of the Latin Patriarch, Msgnr. Beltritti leaves the patriarchate for the traditional procession to Bethlehem. The carcade leaves the Old City of Jerusalem to its first stop at the Mar Elias monastery, where the Latin Patriarch is greeted by Mayors of the surrounding villages on the outskirts of Jerusalem. From here on 5 policemen on horseback lead the motorcade, stopping next at the Tomb of Rachel on the outskirts of Bethlehem. Again, after a short ceremony of greetings, the motorcade now precedes through the narrow streets of old Bethlehem to Manger Square, where the Patriarch is awaited by Mayor Friej of Bethlehem, Lt.Col. Brill, the Military Governor of Bethlehem and the Police Office i/c of the Judea and Samaria Area, as well as notables of Bethlehem and the mayors of more Christian villages. Msgr. Beltritti is now dressing in the vestments he will wear all during Mass and led by two lines of choirboys and princes of the church, through rows of Arab scouts and throngs of thousands of onlookers, locals, Israelis and more tourists than ever before, he now proceeds towards the Church of Nativity. Here Greek Orthodox priests, representatives of the church in possession of most of the Catholic holy places in the country, grant Msgr. Beltritti permission to enter. And through the Church of Nativity the procession passes to St. Cathrine's church, where Matins are said and the Midnight Mass in Bethlehem is held during the night. Security measures were most stringent with helicopters overhead and roadblocks on the roads as well as close-circuit TV cameras at strategic places and army patrols in Bethlehem and on the way. But this did not disturb the Xmas spirit, in evidence more than ever before with 35000 tourists arrived for Xmas only.