Bethlehem celebrates Christmas

BETHLEHEM, West Bank (AP) - Pilgrims are celebrating Christmas Day in the ancient Bethlehem church where tradition holds Jesus was born.

Worshippers filled the fourth-century Church of the Nativity complex Wednesday with candles illuminating the sacred site and the sounds of joyous prayer filling its halls.

Iskandar Salameh, an 18-year-old Palestinian, said the Christmas spirit was uniting those gathered. He says: "We all feel that Jesus is with us today."

The top Roman Catholic cleric in the Holy Land, Latin Patriarch Fouad Twal, led a prayer for the worshippers. He called on followers to spread "the message of Jesus - the message of love and reconciliation."