Holy Land's top Catholic cleric celebrates Palestine's 'birth'

People's lives haven't changed much since the United Nations recognized the Palestinian state recently, says Fouad Twal, top Catholic cleric in the Holy Land. Signs of war and conflict are obvious.

BETHLEHEM, West Bank (AP) — The top Roman Catholic cleric in the Holy Land has celebrated the United Nations' recent recognition of a Palestinian state in his annual pre-Christmas remarks.

Latin Patriarch Fouad Twal told followers at the patriarchate's headquarters in Jerusalem Monday that they were celebrating "two occasions: the birth of Christ our Lord and the birth of the state of Palestine."

From Jerusalem, Twal set off in a procession for the West Bank city of Bethlehem, Jesus' traditional birthplace.

There, he was reminded that life on the ground for Palestinians has not really changed since the statehood recognition last month.

He had to enter the biblical city through a massive metal gate in the barrier of towering concrete slabs Israel built between Jerusalem and Bethlehem during a wave of Palestinian attacks in the last decade.

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