Holy Land's Top Catholic Visits Gaza Strip

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) - The Roman Catholic Church's top cleric in the Holy Land has celebrated Mass in the Gaza Strip.

Archbishop Fouad Twal led prayers Sunday at a Gaza City church in his first trip to the isolated territory's tiny Christian community. He said he came to Gaza to "pray for justice and peace" ahead of Christmas later this week.

He also said he hopes Israel will allow Gaza's Christians to travel to Jesus' traditional birthplace of Bethlehem for the holiday. Gaza's border crossings have been sealed by Israel in response to increasing rocket fire by Gaza militants.

Only 4,000 of Gaza's 1.4 million residents are Christian. Of those, some 600 are Roman Catholic.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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