Thousands of Christians from all over the world have made a pilgrimage to Bethlehem in the Israeli-occupied West Bank to celebrate Christmas, the festival marking the birth of Jesus Christ.
The return of Christmas tourism after two years of COVID-related restrictions lent the town a festive air, as worshippers gathered near the Church of the Nativity to visit the grotto where Christian faithful believe Jesus was born.
A traditional procession set off from Jerusalem at noon (10:00 GMT) on Saturday and arrived in the small town in the afternoon.
The Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem Pierbattista Pizzaballa led the procession, passing through a checkpoint in Israel’s separation wall in the occupied West Bank.
“We are living in very difficult challenges,” he said in his sermon at the church, citing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the war in Ukraine. “But the message of Christmas is a message of peace.”