Christian Pilgrims Flock To Bethlehem For Christmas Mass

Christian Pilgrims Flock To Bethlehem For Christmas Mass

FOX NEWS: VATICAN CITY – Despite the tension and violence that shook the Holy Land this year, Christians from around the world flocked to Manger Square in Bethlehem on Monday to celebrate the birth of Jesus in the ancient West Bank town where he was born.

Others traveled to Vatican City, where Pope Benedict XVI had lit a Christmas peace candle set on the windowsill of his private studio. Pilgrims, tourists and Romans gathered below in St. Peter’s Square for the inauguration Monday evening of a Nativity scene and cheered when the flame was lit.

The pope is preparing to lead Christmas Eve Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica to lead Christmas Eve Mass. The service begins at 10 p.m. local time, or 4 p.m. ET. The midnight start time was changed at the Vatican years ago to let the pontiff rest before a Christmas Day speech to be delivered from the basilica’s central balcony.

In Bethlehem, the Palestinian hosts were hopeful after a recent vote in favor of statehood in the United Nations, though the vote did little to bring them closer to independence.