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Joyous pilgrims join Pope for Bethlehem mass

Pope Francis waves to the crowd as he arrives at Manger Square in Bethlehem on May 25, 2014 to conduct an open air massBethlehem (Palestinian Territories) (AFP) – Thousands of cheering Roman Catholic pilgrims welcomed Pope Francis to Manger Square in the West Bank city of Bethlehem Sunday, where the pontiff celebrated mass. Francis rolled into the square standing in a white open-top car with a bullet-proof screen, as local Christians, and others from Europe, Africa and Asia belted out hymns and waved national and Vatican flags. The main stage set up for the pontiff, who arrived early Sunday by helicopter from Jordan, was flanked by huge Palestinian and Vatican flags, and adorned with a giant tableau depicting Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem. From dawn, wave upon wave of pilgrims shuffled into the buzzing square, through barriers and metal detectors set up by Palestinian security forces as part of a massive security operation.

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