Thousands attend Bethlehem Christmas mass

Latin Patriarch of J'lem holds Church of the Nativity midnight service; Abbas: Settlements are "immoral and indefensible."

Christians at Church of Nativity 311 (photo credit: REUTERS/Ammar Awad )
Christians at Church of Nativity 311
(photo credit: REUTERS/Ammar Awad )
Tens of thousands of people flocked to Bethlehem in the West Bank on Saturday night for midnight Christmas mass headed by Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem Fuad al-Tuwal. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and PA Prime Minister Salaam Fayyad also attended the service.
The mass was held at the 1,700-year-old Church of the Nativity, constructed at the spot where Christians believe Jesus Christ was born in Bethlehem.
RECENT:Christmas fervor hits Jerusalem
Tuwal praised Abbas and Jordan's King Abdullah for their efforts to "create a Palestinian state and achieve a just and comprehensive peace."
Speaking in Bethlehem prior to the mass, Abbas extended his congratulations to Christians, and wished them a year be filled with "love, peace, and stability."
Abbas also used the opportunity to speak out against Israeli policies in the West Bank, saying that "settlements are immoral and indefensible."
Earlier in the month, Bethlehem mayor Victor Batarseh called for a boycott of Israel. “We call for boycotting Israel culturally, educationally, in sports, economics and trade,” the mayor told reporters in Bethlehem. “This is the only way to make Israel come back to the negotiating table and make peace within six months. It worked with South Africa.”