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Christians Celebrate Christmas Eve

Christians around the world are celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ, with observances marking Christmas Eve.

In Israel, the Latin Patriarch Monsignor Michel Sabbah led a procession from Jerusalem to Bethlehem's Manger Square to celebrate midnight mass at the Church of the Nativity, where Christian tradition says the Virgin Mary gave birth to Jesus over 2,000 years ago.

Israel relaxed travel restrictions in Bethlehem Friday, allowing hundreds of Palestinian pilgrims to join the celebrations.

Pilgrims also gathered at St. Peter's Square in the Vatican for Pope John Paul's traditional midnight mass.

In the United States, President Bush made Christmas Eve phone calls to troops at home and overseas, thanking them for their service and wishing them a happy holiday season.

The president also sent out his annual Christmas message, in which he urged Americans to help neighbors in need.

 Some information for this report provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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