Bethlehem, Palestinian Territories (AFP) – Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill entered the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem on Saturday, an AFP correspondent said, on the second day of a historic visit to the Holy Land.
After his visit to the Bethlehem church, built over the site where Christians believe Mary gave birth to Jesus in a stable, Kirill will meet with Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas at his office in the West Bank city.
The head of a community of some 150 million Orthodox believers arrived in Jerusalem on Friday for his first visit since becoming head of the powerful church in 2009, and held prayers at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
Over the course of his six day trip, Kirill will also meet Israeli President Shimon Peres and King Abdullah II of Jordan, in a new sign of his importance as a global religious figure.
Israel’s foreign ministry called his trip “the most important [religious] visit [to Israel] since that of the Pope Benedict XVI” in 2009.
The 65-year-old patriarch will be visiting holy Christian sites in northern Israel as well as in Jordan.