19-December-2012 -- ZENIT.org News Agency |

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Bethlehem Awaiting a Uniquely Joyful Christmas

Palestinians Rejoicing at UN Recognition as Non-Member State

JERUSALEM, DEC. 19, 2012 (Zenit.org).- An auxiliary bishop of Jerusalem says this Christmas in the town where Jesus was born will be particularly joyful.

Auxiliary Bishop William Shomali of Jerusalem told the charity Aid to the Church in Need that Bethlehem will enjoy a uniquely festive Christmas because Palestinians welcomed as a "victory" the recent UN recognition of Palestine as a non-member state.

Bishop Shomali suggested that the morale of Palestinians - both Christians and Muslims - was boosted by last month's "status upgrade."

"For Christians in and around Bethlehem," the bishop told ACN, "Christmas this year will be joyful because of the UN recognition of the Palestinian state.

"This has given people a lot of morale and indeed is seen by many as a victory."

But Bishop Shomali said the festive spirit was tempered by many overseas tourists scrapping Christmas pilgrimages to the Holy Land in response to last month's Israel-Gaza conflict.

"There will certainly be fewer pilgrims and other visitors from overseas," he said. "Many have cancelled their trips here but we will still have many people coming from Galilee and elsewhere as well as many Christians from Bethlehem."

Bishop Shomali also told ACN that the conflict in Syria is of grave concern to Christians in the Holy Land.

"What is happening in Syria casts a dark shadow. It impacts on us very greatly. We are not happy with what is happening in Syria. We are anxious and sad about the situation there."

"There are good and bad feelings this Christmas," he concluded, "but if we consider that Christmas is above all a spiritual feast, I believe it will be a very good celebration."

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