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Pope Praying at the Church of the Nativity


Barack Obama tours the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, Birthplace of Jesus Christ


Diane Keith with her son Chris on Pilgrimage to Holy Land







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May 27, 2014
Fire breaks out at the Church of the Nativity days after Pope’s Visit
Only days after Pope Francis’ historic visit to Bethlehem, a fire broke out near the grotto in the Church of the Nativity. Despite speculation of foul play, officials say that candles caught curtains near the Manger Room on fire, but luckily the fire was promptly put out. To the relief of Church officials as well as Christians around the world, the Church was relatively unscathed.

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May 25, 2014
Pope Francis visits the Church of the Nativity
An outburst of jubilation took place as Pope Francis arrived in the Holy Land this week. On a tour of the holiest sites of Christianity, the Pontiff was given a private visit of the Cave of the Nativity, the birthplace of Jesus Christ. Thousands of Christians waited at Manger Square where Pope Francis gave a sermon on the importance of protecting vulnerable children as well as resolving the political unrest in the area.

He implored leaders in the region, “For the good of all, there is a need to intensify efforts and initiatives aimed at creating the conditions for a stable peace.” He also expressed concern for the young, “All too many children continue to be exploited, maltreated, enslaved, prey to violence and illicit trafficking.” Perhaps the most poignant message he delivered at Christ’s birthplace was, “And we have to ask ourselves: Who are we, as we stand before the Child Jesus? Who are we, standing as we stand before today’s children?”

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March 23, 2014
President Barak Obama Prays in the Cave of the Nativity
US President Barak Obama visited the Church on the Nativity accompanied by the Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, during a brief visit to Israel and the Palestinian Territories. During his visit he met with Greek Orthodox Patriarch Theophilos III who greeted Obama as a “"a messenger of peace and reconciliation.” Before leaving the Church, President Obama lit a candle in the Cave of the Nativity and said a prayer before leaving for his next stop at the Church of St. Catherine.

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December 24, 2013
Christmas in Manger Square in Bethlehem
In the largest turnout in many years, Manger Square was bustling with Christians looking to ring in Christmas at the very place of Jesus Christ’s birth. Despite concerns of political unrest in the region, thousands of people from around the world jubilantly celebrated mass at the Church of the Nativity. One visitor from New York said that being in Bethlehem for Christmas was a lifelong dream. "All the stories that we grew up with. It's here. It's part of our life. We heard them in the family, school and church. This is the birthplace," he said.

Latin Patriarch Fouad Twal, the top Roman Catholic cleric in the Holy Land perhaps said it best, “"The message of Christmas is a message of peace, love and brotherhood. We have to be brothers with each other."

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July 29, 2012
Church of the Nativity Names UNESCO Endangered World Heritage Site
The Church of the Nativity built over the grotto known as the Cave of the Nativity is the oldest Christian church in daily use. Since 339 AD when erected by Empress Helena, the Church has been a place of worship and pilgrimage for Christians around the world. Its unequivocal religious significance prompted UNESCO to nominate the Church of the Nativity along with the Pilgrimage Route as UNESCO World Heritage Sites. UNESCO took emergency action expediting it to the list and named it a World Heritage in Danger due leaks in the Church’s roof along with other structurally compromised areas.

"The universal outstanding value of Bethlehem is unquestionable," UNESCO officials state. "It has been, and continues to be, a focus of Christian belief and worship throughout the centuries. Bethlehem, as well as Jerusalem, became the heart of the Christian world."

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April 12, 2012
Daughter of Nativity Stones Founder Makes Pilgrimage to Holy Land
Diane Keith, daughter of Stanley Slotkin, a prominent philanthropist and amateur religious archeologist, visited the Church and Cave of the Nativity in early 2012. Her father was the guest of the Mayor of Bethlehem in 1963 when he saw an excavation in the sacred grotto of the Manger Room that is recognized as the birthplace of Jesus Christ. Given Slotkin’s prominent philanthropy he was bequeathed the stones from the excavations, which are now known as the Nativity Stones.

Prompted by the desire to share the magnificence of the Holy Land with her extended friends and family, Keith and her loved ones visited numerous hallowed Christian sites. Monique her close friend was baptized in the Jordan River, the baptism site of Jesus, thus fulfilling a lifelong wish. The apex of their trip was their visit to Bethlehem and to the Church and Cave of the Nativity specifically. A private guide showed Keith and her group the exact place of the 1963 excavation, which resides only around ten feet from the 14-pointed star that marks Jesus’ birth in the Manger Room.

Her son Chris commented, “It’s an overwhelming feeling to be in this magnanimous place where Christ was born! I’m so honored that our family has been blessed to be able to come here and I hope we will continue the tradition started by my grandfather back in the 1960s.”