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Christmas at ground zero: Bethlehem prays for peace (VIDEO)

At least 50,000 Palestinian and international Christians gathered in Bethlehem, the biblical birthplace of Jesus Christ, to pray for peace in the Holy Land and the whole Middle East.

The Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Fouad Twal, entered the holy city in a colorful procession, accompanied by Palestinian Scouts playing bagpipes and a man dressed as Saint Nicholas. Earlier, in a pre-Christmas address in Jerusalem, Twal – who is the Holy Land's top Roman Catholic clergyman – expressed concern about the fate of Christians after the upheavals sweeping the Middle East. “May the Lord bless you, bless us, and give us a new year full of blessing, full of peace… here in the Middle East," he said. He is to lead a midnight Christmas mass in Bethlehem’s Church of Nativity. Bethlehem is located just a few miles from Jerusalem inside the West Bank, a part of the Palestinian Territories under a decades-long Israeli military occupation. The feast was guarded by both local Palestinian police and Israeli troops at the border.