A midnight High Mass ushered in Christmas in the Jordean hilltop town of Bethlehem on Saturday (25 December) nearly 2,000 years after the birth of Christ.
GV & SV Cardinals and Priests in precession (2 shots)
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Patriarch leads procession towards church
SV Patriarch into church
SV ZOOM OUT TO LV Patriarch removing gown.
SV Patriarch dons new vestments
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GV & SV Patriarch & congregation celebrate Mass (6 shots)
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Background: A midnight High Mass ushered in Christmas in the Jordean hilltop town of Bethlehem on Saturday (25 December) nearly 2,000 years after the birth of Christ.
As Monsignor Giuseppe Giacome Beltritti, Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem and highest ranking Catholic Prelate in the Holy Land, celebrated the Mass, bells pealed out their message of goodwill.
Pilgrims, tourists and hippies mingled in a cold drizzle into the early hours of the morning after the Mass. More than 2,000 had gathered outside the church to watch the ceremony on a large television screen on the wall of a nearby police station.
SYNOPSIS: Thousands of pilgrims, tourists and hippies crowded into the tiny hilltop town of Bethlehem on Saturday to celebrate Christmas on the spot where Christ was born nearly 2,000 years ago.
Monsignor Giuseppe Giacome Beltritti, the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem and the highest ranking Catholic prelate in the Holy Land, led the procession to the church in Manger Square for midnight Mass.
Thousand had assembled outside in the drizzle to watch the ceremony on a large television screen mounted on the wall of the local police station. While the Patriarch was removing his vestments and changing into his Christmas robes, pilgrims were holding candles and singing hymns on the stops of the church.
The town authorities were taking extra security precautions to prevent any disturbances. Bethlehem's three quest houses and hotels in Jerusalem -- a little to the north -- were fully booked for the festivities. The Christmas celebrations were taking place only a few days before the end-of-year deadline set by Egypt's President Anwar Sadat for a political settlement of Arab-Israeli differences.
Many of the pilgrims waiting outside the church waited for the Patriarch to finish the Mass and begin the procession ceremony, the Patriarch was to lay a wooden replica of the infant Jesus on the star of the nativity and then to place it in a marble manager. Saturday's celebrations in the Holy Land marked only the Christmas for Roman Catholics and Protestants -- Greek Orthodox and Armenian festivals follow in January.