A tiny wooden relic that some Christians believe to be part of Jesus’ manger has been returned to the biblical city of Bethlehem 1,400 years after it was sent to Rome as a gift to the pope.
Cheerful crowds greeted the ornately encased relic with much fanfare before it entered the Franciscan Church of St. Catherine next to the Church of the Nativity, the West Bank holy site where tradition says Jesus was born.
The return of the relic by the Vatican was a spirit-lifting moment for the Palestinians, a small minority of whom are Christian.
Bethlehem in the Israeli-occupied West Bank is preparing for the four weeks of Advent, when pilgrims from around the world flock to the city.
Young Palestinian scouts played bagpipes and the crowd snapped pictures as a clergyman held the silver reliquary and marched toward the church.
Brother Francesco Patton, the custodian of the Franciscan order in the Holy Land, said Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas had asked Pope Francis for a loan of the entire manger, but the pope decided to send a tiny portion of it to stay permanently in Bethlehem.