BETHLEHEM, West Bank, Jan. 6 - Orthodox Christmas celebrations kicked off in the traditional birthplace of Jesus on Wednesday to the sound of bagpipes and protests by Palestinians accusing church leaders of selling land to Israelis.
Palestinian boy-scouts played bagpipes and hundreds of pilgrims watched a colourful procession led by Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos III through Manger Square in the Israeli-occupied West Bank city of Bethlehem.
Two columns of Palestinian riot police escorted the top Orthodox cleric in the Holy Land to the Church of the Nativity, built on the site where Christians believe Mary gave birth to Jesus after she and Joseph found no room at the inn.
Theophilos was elected patriarch in 2005 to replace Irineos, dismissed by the church over an alleged multi-million-dollar sale of church land in annexed Arab east Jerusalem to Jewish investors.
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