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* Sri Lankan President and First Lady visit Church of the Nativity
Wed, Jan 8, 2014, 12:49 am SL Time, ColomboPage News Desk, Sri Lanka.

Jan 07, Bethlehem: The Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem, Theophilos III, of the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, hosted a dinner in honor of Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa and First Lady Shiranthi Wickremasinghe Rajapaksa Monday evening (Jan 6) on the Eve of Eastern Christmas Celebrations.

President Rajapaksa, First Lady, Palestinian President Dr. Mahmoud Abbas, Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah and local and foreign dignitaries were present at the dinner hosted by the Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos III.

The Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, the traditional birthplace of Jesus, celebrates the Eastern Orthodox Christmas on January 7. Most Eastern Orthodox Christian denominations celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ on January 7, in contrast to the Western Christian tradition of celebrating on Dec 25.

The Church of the Nativity is a basilica located in Bethlehem. The Church of the Nativity is a World Heritage Site, and was the first to be listed under Palestine by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). The site is also on UNESCO's List of World Heritage Sites in Danger. Due to its cultural and geographical history, the site holds a prominent religious significance to those of both the Christian and Islamic faiths.

Special prayer blessings were conducted at the holy site, known as the Grotto, at the Church by the orthodox priests.

Later in the evening, President, First Lady, and the Palestinian President attended the midnight Mass for the Orthodox Christmas Eve at the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem conducted by the Patriarch of Jerusalem.

(Photos by Sudath Silva)

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