By DAVID ABED The Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Mgr. Louis Barlassina, arrived at Bethlehem on Tuesday, December 24, where, outside the Church of the Nativity, he was greeted by various civil representatives and thousands of pilgrims. The procession, headed by choirboys and clergy, proceeded slowly into the Church of the Nativity.
By dusk Bethlehem was thronged with troops and civilians of different denominations, all eager to partake in the religious ceremonies. Special
canteens for army personnel were erected in the market square, and civil and military police regulated the heavy flow of traffic entering the town.
At about 10.30 p.m. the electric supply from Jerusalem to Bethlehem failed and the whole town was plunged into darkness. The civil population of the town graciously came to the rescue and placed illuminations in their windows and stood at the doorways of their houses holding torches, candles and gaslights, etc., for the benefit of the many visitors seeking their way to the churches.
The Milk Grotto, a small Catholic church near the Church of the
Nativity, was packed to capacity with officers and soldiers. Seeing them seated in the dim light afforded by candles on the altar, made a picturesque scene. Fortunately, the power was restored at 11.30 p.m.
, St. Catherine's Church, adjoining the Greek Church of the Nativity, presented a brilliant scene. The beautiful colours of priests' vestments shining under the dazzling lights from the chandeliers. and the attractive dress worn by the foreign diplomats and members of the Consular Corps. added to the spectacle.
The High Commissioner for Palestine was represented by the District Commissioner of Jerusalem. At 12 midnight, the bells rang out over the town of Bethlehem heralding the Birth of Christ. The High Pontifical Mass commenced with the entry of Mgr. Barlassina into the sanctuary before the High Altar. A huge star suspended above the High Altar was illuminated at the stroke of midnight, and the broadcast of the Christian world's biggest feast was relayed to all corners of the earth through the microphones placed at the side and above the altar. The choir was composed of Catholic Arabs whose singing was superb. hroughout the Mass photographers and cine-photographers could be observed taking photographs of the ritual and worshippers. The church was filled mostly with soldiers.