Praying with Pope Francis: Bethlehem

Today Pope Francis celebrates Mass in Bethlehem and pays a private visit to the grotto of the Nativity.

These photos show, first, the centre of Bethlehem, with views across Manger Square, away from the Basilica of the Nativity:

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Views of the interior of the 6th Century Basilica

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And then the grottos under the Basilica, first that which was used by St Jerome during his stay there, while working on the Vulgate translation of the scriptures.

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And finally the grotto of the Nativity itself, with the star under the altar indicating by tradition the place where the Word was born, where Jesus Christ was born of Mary.

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Bethlehem today is a town proud of its heritage but kept from most of the Palestinian people by the travel restrictions imposed by Israel. The justification was found in the acts of terrorism by Palestinians against Israelis. Other nations are not prepared to respond to terrorism and threats of terrorism in ways that so degrade ‘its’ people – but then that opens the further can of worms as to who are the people of Israel and who are the people of Palestine, about the misuse of occupied territories, about so many things that divide and diminish the human family in Israel/Palestine.

Today Pope Francis meets with Palestinian families and refugee children, before travelling eventually to Jerusalem for prayer with the Ecumenical Patriarch. That meeting and prayer a reminder of the horrors of schism in the Church, of the violence done to Christians by Christians in the name of faith.

We praise you, gracious God,
for the glad tidings of peace,
the good news of salvation:
your word became flesh,
and we have seen his glory.

Let the radiance of that glory
enlighten the lives
of those who celebrate his birth.

Reveal to all the world
the light no darkness can extinguish,
our Lord Jesus Christ,
who lives and reigns with you n the unity of the Holy Spirit,
in the splendour of eternal light,
God for ever and ever. Amen

Photographs (c) Allen Morris

Prayer from Opening Prayers: the ICEL Collects (c) ICEL.

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