BETHLEHEM, West Bank -- A tiny wooden relic that some Christians believe to be part of Jesus' manger arrived Saturday in its permanent home in 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.
Young Palestinian scouts played bagpipes and the crowd snapped pictures as a clergyman held the silver reliquary and marched toward the church.
“It’s a great joy” that the piece returns to its original place, Patton said, according to Wafa, the official Palestinian news agency.
A wooden structure that Christians believe was part of the manger where Jesus was born was sent by St. Sophronius, the patriarch of Jerusalem, to Pope Theodore I in the 640s, around the time of the Muslim conquest of the Holy Land.
On Friday, the thumb-sized wooden piece was unveiled to worshippers at the Notre Dame church in Jerusalem for a day of celebrations and prayer.
Hundreds of faithful and residents also gathered for the festive annual event, which included fireworks and songs. Crowds cheered as the giant tree was illuminated.
Revelers and worshippers alike will pack the same square for Christmas Eve festivities later in December.