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Christmas ceremonies begin in the birthplace of Jesus

ROUGH CUT (NO REPORTER NARRATION) STORY: Scores of Christian worshippers on Saturday welcomed the Custodian of the Holy Land, Father Pierbattista Pizzaballa, and other senior priests on their arrival in Jesus' birth town of Bethlehem in the West Bank to launch the beginning of "Advent", the Christmas preparations season. Pizzaballa's arrival in the biblical town marks the beginning of a festive season in which millions of Christians around the world make their preparations for Christmas. The word "Advent" means "coming" or "arrival". Three Christian denominations - the Armenians, Roman Catholics and Greek Orthodox - all share control of the church in the West Bank town. The "Customs" or Custodian of the Holy Land is the Pope's envoy to the Middle East. He is the major superior of the friars in the Palestinian territories, as well as in Israel, Jordan, Egypt, Lebanon, Cyprus and Rhodes. Bethlehem is cut off by the barrier from neighboring Jerusalem. Israel has erected its barrier inside the West Bank saying that it aims to stop Palestinian suicide bombers. Palestinians say that the barrier's construction amounts to a land grab that denies them a viable state. The World Court has branded the barrier illegal because it loops into occupied land

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