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» 12/27/2010
ISRAEL – PALESTINE
Record number of pilgrims visits Bethlehem as thousands throng Manger Square for Mass
Israeli authorities say some 100,000 visitors took part in Christmas festivities this year, twice as many as last year. This was the merriest Christmas in the past ten years, since 28 September 2000 that is when the second intifada broke out. The area’s economy is also picking up steam.

Bethlehem (AsiaNews/Agencies) – A record number of pilgrims took part in Christmas celebrations in Bethlehem as tens of thousands of the faithful crowded the Church of the Nativity and Manger Square. Israeli military officials, who coordinate movement in and out of the West Bank, said over 100,000 pilgrims came to the town since Christmas Eve, compared to about 50,000 last year.

They also said this was the merriest Christmas seen in Bethlehem in years with the highest number of visitors for the holiday since 2000 when the second intifada began.

There were so many people that many pilgrims had to follow Christmas services from Manger Square in front of the Basilica of the Nativity.

This year’s record comes after a rebound began five years ago as the level of violence between Israeli and Palestinians decreased.

At present, only a third of Bethlehem’s 50,000 residents is Christian. In 1950, Christians represented 75 per cent of the population, but war and economic hardships have pushed many to leave.

However, the local economy has been picking up and the recovery of religious tourism is an indication of the turnaround.

The town's 2,750 hotel rooms were booked solid for Christmas week, and town officials say more hotels are under construction.

Nevertheless, signs of past violence are everywhere. Visitors entering the town must cross through a massive metal gate in the separation barrier Israel built between Jerusalem and Bethlehem following a wave of Palestinian attacks a few years ago.


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See also
11/30/2004 PALESTINE
Between old fears and new hopes, celebrating Advent in Bethlehem
12/27/2008 PALESTINE - ISRAEL
Tens of thousands of pilgrims in Bethlehem for Christmas
03/17/2010 PALESTINE
Palestinian Authority shuts down the only Christian TV broadcaster in the Territories
12/27/2013 PALESTINE
Gaza Christians banned from Bethlehem and celebrations even at Christmas
12/03/2008 EGYPT - PALESTINE
Hamas: no pilgrimage to Mecca for faithful of Gaza Strip

Editor's choices
IRAQ-ITALY
"Adopt a Christian from Mosul," the thanks of the Patriarch Louis Sako; the concerns of the Bishop of Kurdistan
by Bernardo CervelleraThe head of the Chaldean Church is grateful for the AsiaNews campaign and hopes that "this chain of solidarity will reach far and wide”. Helping refugees to remain in Iraq. But many want to flee abroad. The bishop of Amadiyah where thousands of displaced people have found haven in churches and homes: We also help the Arabs (Muslims), and Yazidis, for free and without looking at our confessional differences.
ITALY - IRAQ
"Adopt a Christian from Mosul" to respond directly to Iraq's emergencyAsiaNews is launching a fundraiser to support Christians targeted by the Islamic State, thus responding to a request by the Patriarch of Baghdad and Pope Francis's urgent appeal "to guarantee all necessary assistance - especially the most urgently needed aid - to the great multitude of people who have been driven from their homes, whose fate depends entirely on the solidarity of others." More than 100,000 people have been forced to flee their homes leaving everything behind and now have nothing to live on. To help them, five euros a day are enough. The funds raised will be sent to the Patriarchate of Baghdad, which will distribute them according to the needs of each family.
CHINA - VATICAN
Wenzhou bishop and priests slam government's campaign against crosses and churches in Zhejiang
by Eugenia ZhangFor Mgr Vincent Zhu Weifang, from the official Church, the campaign of destruction is increasing social instability. It is real persecution against the Christian faith. The bishop apologises for failing to intervene sooner. He was hoping that the campaign would end quickly. Catholics and Protestants suffer injuries as they attempt to defend their sacred buildings. For priests in Wenzhou, the campaign is unfair and touches buildings that have all the right papers. Such "stupid acts" by the government are undermining social harmony.

Dossier
by Giulio Aleni / (a cura di) Gianni Criveller
pp. 176
by Lazzarotto Angelo S.
pp. 528
by Bernardo Cervellera
pp. 240
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