Christmas at Bethlehem
Musicians perform on stage in Manger Square, outside the Church of the Nativity, the site revered as the birthplace of Jesus, on Christmas eve in the West Bank town of Bethlehem

Thousands of Christians from across the globe have flocked to the Palestinian city of Bethlehem for Christmas.

On the eve of Christmas day, people packed Manger Square in Bethlehem as the 1,700-year-old Church of the Nativity holds Christmas Eve Mass. A Midnight Mass was held at St Catherine's Church which is also governed by the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank region.

"From this holy place, I invite politicians and men of good will to work with determination for peace and reconciliation that encompasses Palestine and Israel in the midst of all the suffering in the Middle East," said the top Roman Catholic cleric in the region, Latin Patriarch Fouad Twal.

"Please continue to fight for a just cause to achieve peace and security for the people of the Holy Land. The path (to statehood) remains long, and will require a united effort," said Twal before adding that the celebrations commemorate "the birth of Christ our Lord and the birth of the state of Palestine."

Meanwhile, Pope Benedict XVI has led the traditional Mass at the St Peter's Basilica in Vatican.

The pontiff who wrote in his latest book that Jesus' birth was mistakenly calculated, urged people to find "room for God in their fast-paced lives."

"The calculation of the beginning of our calendar - based on the birth of Jesus - was made by Dionysius Exiguus, who made a mistake in his calculations by several years. The actual date of Jesus's birth was several years before," wrote the pope in his book Jesus of Nazareth: The Infancy Narratives.

Commemorating the eighth Christmas of his pontificate, the 85-year-old pope referred to the situation in the Middle East and said: "Christians in those lands where our faith was born may be able to continue living there, that Christians and Muslims may build up their countries side-by-side in God's peace."

Musicians perform on stage in Manger Square, outside the Church of the Nativity, the site revered as the birthplace of Jesus, on Christmas eve in the West Bank town of Bethlehem
Musicians perform on stage in Manger Square, outside the Church of the Nativity, the site revered as the birthplace of Jesus, on Christmas eve in the West Bank town of BethlehemReuters
A Palestinian vendor sells balloons and Christmas hats at Manger Square on Christmas eve in Bethlehem
A Palestinian vendor sells balloons and Christmas hats at Manger Square on Christmas eve in BethlehemReuters
A general view of Manger Square is seen on Christmas eve in Bethlehem
A general view of Manger Square is seen on Christmas eve in BethlehemReuters
A Palestinian boy scout marching band parades during a Christmas procession at Manger Square in Bethlehem
A Palestinian boy scout marching band parades during a Christmas procession at Manger Square in BethlehemReuters
General view of Manger Square is seen on Christmas eve in Bethlehem
General view of Manger Square is seen on Christmas eve in BethlehemReuters
Nigerian pilgrims visit Church of Nativity in Bethlehem
Nigerian pilgrims visit Church of Nativity in BethlehemReuters
A member of the clergy holds a cross as he waits for the arrival of the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem Twal outside the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem
A member of the clergy holds a cross as he waits for the arrival of the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem Twal outside the Church of the Nativity in BethlehemReuters
The Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem Twal prepares to bless the crowd outside the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem
The Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem Twal prepares to bless the crowd outside the Church of the Nativity in BethlehemReuters
Nigerian pilgrims pray in Church of Nativity in Bethlehem
Nigerian pilgrims pray in Church of Nativity in BethlehemReuters
Nigerian pilgrims sit inside the Church of Nativity in Bethlehem
Nigerian pilgrims sit inside the Church of Nativity in BethlehemReuters
A Palestinian girl watches a Christmas parade in Bethlehem
A Palestinian girl watches a Christmas parade in BethlehemReuters
A Palestinian dressed as Santa Claus rings a bell in the West Bank town of Bethlehem ahead of Christmas
A Palestinian dressed as Santa Claus rings a bell in the West Bank town of Bethlehem ahead of ChristmasReuters
People walk through the Church of Nativity in Bethlehem
People walk through the Church of Nativity in BethlehemReuters
A Greek Orthodox priest walks inside the Church of the Nativity, the site revered as the birthplace of Jesus, ahead of Christmas in Bethlehem
A Greek Orthodox priest walks inside the Church of the Nativity, the site revered as the birthplace of Jesus, ahead of Christmas in BethlehemReuters
Pope Benedict XVI leaves at the end of the Christmas night mass in the Saint Peter's Basilica at the Vatican
Pope Benedict XVI leaves at the end of the Christmas night mass in the Saint Peter's Basilica at the VaticanReuters
Pope Benedict XVI walks past the baby Jesus statue as he leads the Christmas night mass in the Saint Peter's Basilica at the Vatican
Pope Benedict XVI walks past the baby Jesus statue as he leads the Christmas night mass in the Saint Peter's Basilica at the VaticanReuters
Pope Benedict XVI prays as he leads the Christmas night mass in the Saint Peter's Basilica at the Vatican
Pope Benedict XVI prays as he leads the Christmas night mass in the Saint Peter's Basilica at the VaticanReuters
Pope Benedict XVI holds up a candle at the window of his private apartment to celebrate the unveiling of the nativity scene in Saint Peter's Square at the Vatican
Pope Benedict XVI holds up a candle at the window of his private apartment to celebrate the unveiling of the nativity scene in Saint Peter's Square at the VaticanReuters
Pope Benedict XVI holds the book of the gospels as he leads the Christmas night mass in the Saint Peter's Basilica at the Vatican
Pope Benedict XVI holds the book of the gospels as he leads the Christmas night mass in the Saint Peter's Basilica at the VaticanReuters
Pope Benedict XVI looks on as he leads the Christmas night mass in the Saint Peter's Basilica at the Vatican
Pope Benedict XVI looks on as he leads the Christmas night mass in the Saint Peter's Basilica at the VaticanReuters