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Abbas celebrates Orthodox Christmas in Bethlehem

Jan. 7, 2013 10:39 P.M. (Updated: Jan. 14, 2013 10:14 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- President Abbas attended midnight mass in Bethlehem's Nativty Church on Sunday evening to celebrate the Orthodox Christmas.

The mass was led by Patriarch Theophilos III of Jerusalem and attended by Jordanian official Bassam Haddadin, representing King Abdullah II, the consul general of Greece and a host of diplomats and clergymen.

Theophilos congratulated Abbas on the recognition of Palestine as a non-member state.

"The message of peace started in Bethlehem, and the Church announces today a message of peace, tolerance and reconciliation," he said.

The Assyrian, Coptic, Greek Orthodox and Ethiopian Patriarchs had arrived in Bethlehem earlier Sunday from Jerusalem, entering via a checkpoint in the north of the city.

Scouts and marching bands paraded through Bethlehem's streets on Sunday to welcome archbishops and patriarchs to mark Christmas in the Orthodox calendar.

The majority of Palestinian Christians belong to the Orthodox church, with significant communities from other Christian denominations.
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