Patriarch Fouad Twal, head of the Roman Catholic Church in Jerusalem, has voiced his support for a Palestinian state during a procession to Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus.
Latin Patriarch Fouad Twal said this Christmas would be a celebration of “the birth of Christ our lord and the birth of the state of Palestine”.
Last month, the United Nations upgraded the status of the Palestinians to that of a “non-member observer state”.
Patriarch Fouad Twal is due to lead midnight mass at the Church of the Nativity.
The church is seen by Christians as the traditional birthplace of Jesus, and is in an area of the West Bank governed by the Palestinian Authority.
In June the church was formally named a Unesco World Heritage Site – the first to be nominated by the Palestinians, who were made full members of Unesco earlier this year.
Patriarch Fouad Twal, who was born in Jordan, led a symbolic procession from Jerusalem’s Old City to Bethlehem, passing through the separation barrier and checkpoint built by the Israelis.
He was met at the church in Manger Square by thousands of tourists, pilgrims and clergy.