The Orthodox Armenian patriarch of Jerusalem, Nourhan Manougian, arrived Wednesday at Manager Square in Bethlehem, marking the start of Armenian Christmas and the Feast of the Epiphany, WAFA reports.
Manougian’s procession started from the Armenian Patriarchate, located within the Monastery of St. James in the Old City of Jerusalem, and made its way to Manger Square via Jaffa Gate. It stopped at Mar Elias Monastery on the way to Bethlehem where he was greeted by the mayors of Beit Jala and Beit Sahour before proceeding to Bethlehem via a metal gate in the wall that separates Bethlehem from Jerusalem.
Israel opens the gate for the Christmas processions to allow them quick access to Bethlehem, surrounded by a wall and Israeli settlements.
After reaching Bethlehem, Manougian was greeted by Bethlehem Governor Jebrin al-Bakri, Bethlehem Mayor Vera Baboun.
The Patriarch was also greeted upon his arrival by the Armenian community notables before making a solemn entry into the Basilica of the Nativity and St. Catherine’s Church.
President Mahmoud Abbas has already arrived in Bethlehem and is anticipated to attend the midnight mass.
Orthodox Armenian Christians in Palestine celebrate Christmas nearly two weeks after the majority of the Greek Orthodox Church and other Eastern Orthodox denominations, who marked the feast on January 7, and more than three weeks after Roman Catholic Christians, who celebrated it on December 25.
The differences in dates of Christmas feast are due to the use of different calendars. Roman Catholic Christians and other western denominations mark the feast using the Gregorian calendar, Orthodox Christians and most Armenian denominations celebrate the feast using the Julian calendar, while the Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem marks Christmas and Epiphany together on January 19.