BETHLEHEM, West Bank, Dec. 25 (UPI) -- Patriarch Fouad Twal, archbishop of Jerusalem, called the city the "capital of two nations" in his Christmas Eve sermon in Bethlehem.
Twal urged dialogue among religious groups, calling it "the answer to modern atheism and fundamentalism that threaten the people of God," the Los Angeles Times reported. He prayed for Jerusalem to be "not only the capital of two nations, but also a model for the world of harmony and coexistence of the three monotheistic religions."
Thousands of people, both Palestinians and visitors, packed the West Bank city. Those without tickets for midnight mass in the Church of the Nativity watched on big screens in Manger Square.
Christmas celebrations in Bethlehem were suspended for several years after a siege that began in April 2002. Palestinian militants held out in the Church of the Nativity for five weeks, surrounded by the Israeli Army.
The patriarch had to drive only a few miles from Jerusalem to Bethlehem. But to get to the city where Jesus was born his Mercedes had to pass through a metal gate in a security wall separating the cities.