The Orthodox Armenian patriarch of Jerusalem, Nourhan Manougian, arrived on Thursday at Manager Square in Bethlehem, heading a procession of Armenian clergy and notables, ushering in the start of Armenian Christmas celebrations and the Feast of the Epiphany.
Manougian‚Äôs procession started from the Armenian Patriarchate, located within the Monastery of St. James in the Old City of Jerusalem. It stopped at Mar Elias Monastery just outside the Israeli concrete wall separating Jerusalem from Bethlehem where he was greeted by the mayors of Beit Jala and Beit Sahour.
The procession than proceeded to Bethlehem via an Israeli-army controlled metal gate in the wall that opens only during official visits or for army purposes.
Upon reaching Bethlehem, Manougian was greeted by Bethlehem Governor Jibrin al-Bakri, Mayor Anton Salman and other officials.
The Patriarch was also greeted, upon his arrival, by Armenian community notables before making a solemn entry into the Basilica of the Nativity and St. Catherine‚Äôs Church.
Orthodox Armenian Christians in Palestine celebrate Christmas nearly two weeks after the majority of the Greek Orthodox Church and other Eastern Orthodox denominations, who marked the feast on January 7, and more than three weeks after the Roman Catholic Christians, who celebrated it on December 25.
The differences in dates of Christmas feast are due to the use of different calendars. Roman Catholic Christians and other western denominations mark the feast using the Gregorian calendar, Orthodox Christians and most Armenian denominations celebrate the feast using the Julian calendar, while the Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem marks Christmas and Epiphany together on January 19.