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Jerusalem Latin Patriarch arrives in Bethlehem amid COVID gloom

Jerusalem Latin Patriarch, Pierbattista Pizzaballa, arrived in Bethlehem on Friday (December 25) to lead Christmas celebrations, overshadowed by COVID gloom.

In striking contrast to what would normally be a frenetic scene, a relatively small crowd of faithful greeted the patriarch at Manger Square for a second year in a row.

Israel’s decision to shut out foreign travellers in order to try to prevent the Omicron variant taking hold, has made it almost impossible to pilgrims to arrive in the West Bank town, traditionally known as Jesus birthplace.

In its last pre-pandemic winter, in 2019/20, Bethlehem hosted 3.5 million visitors.

Pizzaballa will lead the reduced Midnight Mass at the Church of the Nativity later tonight.

(Production: Abu Ganeyeh, Yousri Al-Jamal, Adel Abu Nemeh, Lianne Back, Lee Marzel)

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