Bethlehem gets early Christmas gift

World | ASSOCIATED PRESS 2 Dec 2019

A tiny wooden relic that some Christians believe to be part of Jesus' manger arrived Saturday in its permanent home in the biblical city of Bethlehem 1,400 years after it was sent to Rome as a papal gift.

Crowds gathered to see the ornately encased relic before it entered the Franciscan Church of St Catherine next to the Church of the Nativity, the holy site where tradition says Jesus was born.

Brother Francesco Patton, the custodian of the Franciscan order in the Holy Land, said Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas had asked Pope Francis to borrow the entire manger, but the pope opted to send a tiny portion of it to reside in Bethlehem.

"It's a great joy" that the piece returns to its original place, Patton said.

The arrival of the thumb-sized wooden relic coincided with Advent, a four-week period leading up to Christmas.

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