Christians around the world have begun celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ, with observances marking Christmas Eve.
In Bethlehem, the town of Jesus's birth, Israel has relaxed travel restrictions allowing hundreds of Palestinian pilgrims to join the celebrations. Many expressed hope that the new year would bring peace to the troubled region.
The Latin Patriarch Monsignor Michel Sabbah led a procession from Jerusalem to Bethlehem's Manger Square. Later today (Friday) he will 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.
At the Vatican, pilgrims are also gathering at St. Peter's Square, for Pope John Paul's traditional midnight mass. The pope is also expected to deliver greetings to Catholics around the world in several languages.