Greek Orthodox Patriarch Theophilos III arriving in Bethlehem for Christmas celebrations. (WAFA photos/Ahmed Mizher)Â
Orthodox churches celebrating Christmas according to the Eastern calendar completed, on Saturday, their arrival at the Church of Nativity in Bethlehem, marking the start of Christmas celebrations.
The Syrian Orthodox Patriarchal Vicar of the Holy Land and Jordan, Archbishop Mar Swerios Malki Murad, was the first to arrive, followed by the Coptic Orthodox Archbishop Anba Antonius, then the Greek Orthodox Patriarch Theophilos III and last the procession of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church.
Theophilos, head of the largest orthodox community in Palestine, headed a procession that started from the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate in Jerusalemâ€™s Old City and arrived at Bethlehemâ€™s Manger Square where he was received by Palestinian officials, including the governor of Bethlehem Jibrin Bakri and Minister of Tourism Rola Mayaya among others.
Theophilos will lead the Midnight Mass at the Church of Nativity, which will be attended by PA President Mahmoud Abbas, according to WAFA.
The orthodox churches mark Christmas Day on January 7, and the Armenian Orthodox Church is the last to celebrate Christmas in the Holy Land, with the Christmas Eve procession from Jerusalem to Bethlehem on January 18, and Christmas Day on January 19.
Chris Carlson is a student of religion at Mount Mercy University, United States, and has been a regular volunteer with the IMEMC since 2013. He assisted in providing extensive coverage of the 2014 Israeli military offensive on the Gaza Strip and continues, into the present day, with the issues at hand. He can be reached via email at c h r i s @ i m e m c . o r g.