His Holiness Pope Francis arrived in the Palestinian city of Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus Christ, in the occupied State of Palestine.He started his visit with a press conference with President Mahmoud Abbas, before he visited a section of the Israeli Apartheid Wall, north of the city, and continued his way to the Manger Square where he was welcomed by thousands of Palestinians and visitors.
His visit started as he landed in Bethlehem, coming from the Jordanian capital of Amman.
The official welcoming ceremony was held at the Presidential Palace, in Bethlehem, where President Abbas and other political and religious officials welcomed him.
During his speech at the press conference, President Abbas said that the Palestinians seek peace, a real and comprehensive peace, and are struggling to end the illegal Israeli occupation of Palestine so that they can build their state, with East Jerusalem as its capital, living side by side with Israel.
President Abbas stressed that the Palestinians are longing for peace, want to live in dignity, freedom and liberation, and that the Palestinians welcome any initiative that leads to real peace in the region.
On his part, Pope Francis called for establishing a Palestinian State, living in peace next to Israel, and for real peace and justice in the Holy Land. He called for all people to work toward bringing peace.
“We all need to continue our mission, among all nations, to achieve peace”, he added, “We have strong ties with the Palestinians and we call on all parties to continue to work for peace”.
He further called on the Israelis and Palestinians to overcome all obstacles, and to reach a two-state solution, based on liberty and justice.
Thousands of Palestinians gathered at the Manger Square, and along the main roads in Bethlehem where the Pope’s convoy drove through heading to the Church of Nativity.
On his way, the Pope stepped out of his car, near a section of the Apartheid Wall, north of Bethlehem, where he walked towards the wall and prayed as hundreds of Palestinians cheered and welcomed him.
His convoy then continued the short drive as thousands welcomed the Pope, chanting and cheering as he arrived at the Manger square.
After saluting the massive crowds, the Pope led prayers that are still ongoing until the time of this report.