Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem
Tel: 626-4866
Fax: 626-4862

February 2, 2010
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President Mahmoud Abbas, Prime Minister Salam Fayad and five members of the
Palestinian cabinet attend Armenian Christmas celebrations in Bethlehem


Despite the inclement weather, Armenians of Jerusalem marked Christmas
through a number of ceremonies, starting with the solemn entry into the
Church of Nativity, on the 18th of January and ending on early morning of
January 19th, with an Episcopal epiphany Divine Liturgy, celebrated by His
Grace, Bishop Margos Hovhanisian. The ceremonies were presided over by His
Eminence Archbishop Nourhan Manougian, the Grand Sacristan of the Armenian
Patriarchate, who was delegated by His Beatitude Archbishop Torkom
Manoogian.

On the morning of January 18th, a motorcade of 50 cars left the patriarchate
accompanied by Israeli military and police escorts and reached the outskirts
of Mar Elias Monastery, where it was welcomed by the Mayors of Beit Jala and
Beit Sahoor and their entire town council members. After which four Israeli
cavalry policemen accompanied Archbishop Manougian's car to the Palestinian
border, where he was received by the Mayor of Beit Sahoor and the town
council. Then the motorcade was escorted by Palestinian police motorcyclists
and cars to the Manger Square, where the Mayor of Bethlehem, Dr. Victor
Batarseh; the Governor of Bethlehem; Palestinian ministers; and the Police
Chief welcomed him. Then the procession of bishops, priests and seminarians
made their official entry into the Basilica of the Nativity Church, preceded
by Armenian scouts and their musical bands.

The Christmas Eve ceremonies started at 2:00 p.m. and ended at 6:00 p.m. In
the evening, the Armenian Patriarchate hosted a special reception, which was
held in the medieval basement building of the monastery. Once again,
President Abbas and Prime Minister Fayad were present, along with several
ministers, who arrived at 7:30 p.m. In his welcoming speech, Archbishop
Manougian dwelt on the millennial Armenian presence in the Holy Land,
thanked the Palestinian Authority for the impeccable organization of the
day's events, and had words of praise for the wise leadership of President
Abbas. He ended his speech saying, "Our prayers will be directed to the
prince of Peace and Love, that a just and a lasting peace is established in
the region."

The President, in his turn, had warm words for the Armenian people, adding
that "we consider the Armenians as an indivisible part of this land."
Talking about his peace strategy, he said that the two people have no choice
but to pursue peace efforts.

The reception was attended by some 300 people, including dignitaries,
representatives of other churches and a sizable number of pilgrims from
Armenia, United States and Turkey.

The evening prayers started at 10:00 p.m. and the Nativity Church
reverberated with Armenian Christmas hymns. The entire midnight services
were televised by the Palestinian TV. At 11:30 p.m., His Excellency
President Abbas arrived surrounded by ministers of the Interior, Security,
Tourism, Religious Affairs and also of Antiquities. At midnight, Archbishop
Manougian, accompanied by the Palestinian officials, descended to the
Grotto, where he delivered his Christmas messages, in Armenian and Arabic.

It is noted that this year's Christmas events were conducted with special
care and organization by the Palestinian Authorities who allocated extra
security personnel for the day, which is a testament to the important
position that the Armenian Patriarchate holds in the Holy Land.

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Photo attached: Archbishop Nourhan Manougian and Palestinian president
Mahmoud Abbas.