Christians around the world have celebrated the birth anniversary of Jesus Christ, with a solemn mood presiding over many ceremonies, as war, terror and discord continue to plague many nations across the globe.
Thousands of pilgrims and tourists converged on the city of Bethlehem in the Israeli-occupied territory of the West Bank for the occasion.
Crowds of worshipers gathered in the Church of Nativity, the biblical birthplace of Jesus in Bethlehem, where a midnight mass was led by the Latin Patriarch of the Catholic Church in the Holy Land, Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa.
The ceremony was attended by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah as well as other dignitaries.
In his homily, Archbishop Pizzaballa expressed his sympathy for asylum seekers and pleaded for measures to stop the spiral of violence in the Middle East which has destroyed many countries across the region and taken the lives of hundreds of thousands of civilians, especially children.
“Closed doors, defended borders before personal and political choices are a metaphor for the fear that inevitably breeds the violent dynamics of the present time,” he warned.
Meanwhile in Vatican City, head of the Roman Catholic Church Pope Francis marked the birth of Jesus Christ.
During his address, he called on the world to open their eyes to the plight of those in need, including Middle Eastern refugees, especially those from Syria and Iraq who fled to Europe, as well as those who are in war-torn countries.
In his Christmas message delivered at Saint Peter’s Basilica, the pontiff urged all worshipers to ponder on the situation of children “hiding underground to escape bombardment.”
In Europe, people are celebrating Christmas amid fears of the repeat of the terror attacks they have witnessed in recent months, especially the latest truck attack which took place in the German capital Berlin on Monday.
Security has been tight in various parts of Europe as the holiday season reaches its peak.
In Germany, authorities have worked through the Christmas to ensure public safety especially in Berlin where Tunisian national and Daesh sympathizer, Anis Amri, killed 12 people after crashing a truck into a crowded Christmas market. Many locals have visited the market, lit candles and laid flowers for the victims.
Also in Italy, security remains tight. Milan’s Cathedral has been highly secured by Italian police with concrete barricades set around the historic Piazza del Duomo. Also, in the Vatican people were on high alert following the shooting dead of the man believed to be behind the Berlin market attack.
Not far from Italy, France has deployed around 100,000 police forces and soldiers to guard public spaces including churches and markets.
Christmas has also been observed elsewhere in the world including in Muslim countries.
In Iran, Christians have gathered in churches to celebrate the occasion.
Also, Christians in Iraq held a Christmas Eve service in the town of Bartella, near Mosul for the first time since it was captured from Daesh terrorists in 2014. Iraqi forces were deployed there to provide maximum security.
Volunteers prepared the church for the service which had been destroyed and set ablaze by the terrorists.
Meanwhile, in Syria’s northwestern city of Aleppo, Christian residents prepared for celebrations just days after the army liberated the city from the clutch of militants. The celebrations in Syria’s second largest city came amid army operations against the terrorists in the suburbs of Aleppo.