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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
VATICAN
Pope: I am with the persecuted Christians of Mosul and the Middle East "May the God of peace inspire in all a genuine desire for dialogue and reconciliation. Violence is never defeated with violence. Violence is defeated with peace." At the Sunday Angelus Francis comments on the parable of the wheat and the weeds. God is "patient" He knows "the same weeds in the end, may become good wheat". But "at the time of the harvest, that is, of judgment, the reapers will execute the order of the master separating the weeds to be burned".
CHINA - VATICAN
Beijing, seminarians desert graduation ceremony: We will not celebrate Mass with illegitimate bishops The rector of the seminary is the illegitimate bishop Joseph Ma Yinglin: Students refuse to concelebrate with him and reject Msgr. Fang Xingyao, who has participated in several illegal episcopal ordinations. The directors close the year without awarding diplomas and send students home: rumors of some courses being "suspended" in September. The precedent of 2000, when 130 young students chose fidelity to the Pope over compromise with the government.
HONG KONG-CHINA-VATICAN
Card Zen: Religious freedom and civil liberties are united, for China and Hong Kong
by Bernardo CervelleraA wide ranging conversation with the bishop emeritus of Hong Kong: the courage of Msgr. Ma Daqin, who sent a message to Pope Francis; underground Catholics are also prepared to be arrested; suspicions about Beijing’s sincerity towards possible dialogue with the Holy See. And in Hong Kong, the march for a referendum on democracy; support for "Occupy Central"; the fear of the government and arrests. Card. Zen reaffirms that religious freedom and civil liberties go hand in hand.

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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