Pope Asks Faithful to Look Beyond Christmas ‘Glitter’

Posted December 24th, 2011 at 6:45 pm (UTC-5)
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As millions of Christians worldwide prepared to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, Pope Benedict XVI decried the increasing commercialization of Christmas.

At a Christmas Eve service in a packed St. Peter's Basilica Saturday, the pontiff asked the faithful to look beyond the holiday's superficial “glitter” to discover its true meaning.

Meanwhile, tens of thousands of pilgrims and tourists began arriving in Bethlehem Saturday, to spend Christmas in the town believed to be Jesus' birthplace.

Christmas Eve celebrations in the West Bank town culminate with a celebration of Midnight Mass at the Church of the Nativity.

The Holy Land's top Roman Catholic cleric, Latin Patriarch Fuad Twal, was leading the Mass at the church built over the spot where it is believed Mary gave birth to Jesus.

Bethlehem's mayor says this Christmas carries special meaning for Palestinians as their bid for statehood moves forward.

“We are celebrating this Christmas hoping that in the near future we'll get our right to self-determination, our right to establish our own democratic, secular, Palestinian state on the Palestinian land. That is why this Christmas is unique.”

Early Saturday, visitors gathered around a giant Christmas tree at the town's central Manger Square, while a marching band performed.

One German tourist said seeing Jesus' birthplace is important to her and her family.


“It's really special, I mean, it's where the story began. And for me it's also kind of special for my family because my parents were here and my grandmother was here so it's special to be here.''

Meanwhile, Bethlehem police were also patrolling the once restive city, which lies about eight kilometers south of Jerusalem in the West Bank.