BETHLEHEM, DEC. 24, 2008 (Zenit.org).- The city where Jesus was born recovered some Christmas joy this year, rebounding from seven seasons when few pilgrims arrived to celebrate Christmas there.
Some 250,000 pilgrims arrived in Bethlehem this week, compared to only 65,000 last year, the mayor of the city reported.
The whole year showed a marked improvement, with some 1.2 million tourists, the greatest number since 2000 and the second Intifada.
The new patriarch of Jerusalem, Archbishop Fouad Twal, made a solemn entry into the city today at 3 p.m., local time. Twenty-three groups of Boy Scouts preceded him, marching through the city's narrow, ancient streets.
According to a report from the Custody of the Holy Land, "The pilgrims gather in silent prayer in the Grotto [where Jesus was born] at all times of the day, and this gives the day its atmosphere of intense prayer."