Bethlehem celebrates Christmas

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BETHLEHEM, West Bank (AP) - Pilgrims are celebrating Christmas Day in the ancient Bethlehem church where tradition holds Jesus was born.

Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Fouad Twal, bottom center, leads the midnight Christmas mass at the Church of Nativity, traditionally believed by Christians to be the birthplace of Jesus Christ, in the West Bank town of Bethlehem on Christmas Eve, Wednesday, Dec. 25, 2013. AP Photo.

Worshippers filled the fourth-century Church of the Nativity complex Wednesday with candles illuminating the sacred site and the sounds of joyous prayer filling its halls.

Iskandar Salameh, an 18-year-old Palestinian, said the Christmas spirit was uniting those gathered. He says: "We all feel that Jesus is with us today."

The top Roman Catholic cleric in the Holy Land, Latin Patriarch Fouad Twal, led a prayer for the worshippers. He called on followers to spread "the message of Jesus - the message of love and reconciliation."

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