Relic believed to come from Christ's manger arrives in Bethlehem

30 November 2019, 22:31 | Updated: 1 December 2019, 06:38

A tiny wooden relic which some believe to come from Christ's manger has arrived in Bethlehem ahead of Christmas.

The relic was first sent to the Vatican 1,400 years ago as a gift to the Pope.

It is now sheathed in an ornate case and was greeted by crowds in the West Bank ahead of Advent, which will begin on Sunday 1 December and end on Christmas Eve.

It is believed that the Patriarch of Jerusalem, St Sophronius, donated the relic to Pope Theodore in the 7th Century.

A religious delegation brought the relic to the Franciscan Church of St Catherine, next to the Church of the Nativity - a holy site for Christians in the West Bank where tradition says Jesus was born.

Christians make up a small minority of Palestinians and Bethlehem is one of the only cities in the West Bank and Gaza where Christmas is celebrated.

Brother Francesco Patton, the custodian of the Franciscan order in the Holy Land, said that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas had asked Pope Francis to borrow the entire manger.

However, Pope Francis instead sent a thumb-sized wooden piece of it which would stay permanently in Bethlehem.

According to the Palestinian news agency Wafa, Brother Patton described the return of the piece as a moment of "great joy".