Obama, during his short stay in the area, insisted on visiting the Church of Nativity in order to light candles and pray. President Obama and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas chatted at the church, which was built above the grotto where Jesus was born.

During the tour, Obama stopped twice to light candles for his family and himself: first at the Church of Nativity grotto, where Jesus’ birthplace, then at the adjacent Catholic Church of St. Catherine.

Manger Square, the plaza in front of the church, was uncharacteristically deserted except for security personnel due to Obama’s visit. Only a few waiters were able to watch the scene curiously from the surrounding restaurants and souvenir shops.

U.S. President Barack Obama toured the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem together with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Secretary of State John Kerry, and Bethlehem Mayor Vera Baboun.

Obama also met the Greek Orthodox Patriarch Theophills III  during the tour who was the first to greet him by calling him  “a messenger of peace and reconciliation.”

Obama was then greeted by religious leaders according to the Status Quo protocol that governs holy sites: the Custos of the Holy Land, Franciscan Father Pierbattista Pizzaballa, followed by Armenian Orthodox Archbishop Sevan Gharibian. Muslim religious leaders and Palestinian leaders also greeted Obama, who was accompanied by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas throughout the visit.

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