A fragment of wood reputed to be from the manger where Jesus was laid after his humble birth arrived in Bethlehem from the Vatican on Saturday, kicking off Christmas season at the town revered as the place of Jesus’ birth, Reuters reports.
The wood piece, just a few centimeters long, was once kept in the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome. It was handed over earlier this week to the custodian of the Bethlehem church, who said it brought “great honor to believers and pilgrims in the area”.
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. https://t.co/WfacU1hZ1A pic.twitter.com/xnVTEIOD2S
— KNX 1070 NEWSRADIO (@KNX1070) November 30, 2019
The provenance of ancient relics is often questionable. Still, they are revered by the Christian faithful, among them the coachloads of pilgrims who squeeze through a narrow sandstone entrance in the Church of the Nativity to visit the birth grotto that is its centerpiece.
According to the Custos of the Holy Land for the Catholic church, Francesco Patton, the relic dates back more than 2,000 years and was sent to the Vatican in the 7th century.
"And she gave birth to her firstborn Son and wrapped Him in bands of cloth, and laid Him in a manger." (Luke: 2:7) The Pope has sent a fragment of that very #Manger from #Rome back to where it all began, #Bethlehem! https://t.co/giI1MNQ3Rp
— DiCarlo RSC Inc. (@DiCarloRSC) November 30, 2019
Encased in a silver-colored ornamental table-top stand, the relic was unveiled to the public on Friday at the Notre Dame of Jerusalem Center, before it was taken to Bethlehem on Saturday.
A procession of marching bands greeted the relic as it arrived in Bethlehem. It was placed in Saint Catherine’s Church, at the Church of the Nativity compound in Manger Square.
Bethlehem, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, is usually particularly busy ahead of Christmas on Dec. 25, with tourists and pilgrims flocking to the Biblical city. Christians make up around 1% of the Palestinian population in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem.
(Middle East Monitor, PC, Social Media)