December 25th, 2011
05:00 AM ET

Christian pilgrims flock to Holy Land

By Izzy Lemberg, CNN

Jerusalem (CNN) –– In appearance they could have been the Hell's Angels, revving their flashy motorcycles to deafening levels, but on closer look at their leather jackets and tattoos suggested they were on a mission from heaven. Crosses and stars of David were emblazoned on their jackets. One rider had a tattoo of a menorah. They were preparing to ascend the snaky road up to the holy city of Jerusalem.

These were American pastors who are also Harley-Davidson enthusiasts. They came with their motorcycles as part of an Israeli Tourism Ministry initiative to attract Christian tourists to visit the Holy Land. FULL POST

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Belief • Christianity • Israel • Judaism

Pope calls for worshipers to remember 'essence' of Christmas
December 25th, 2011
01:00 AM ET

Pope calls for worshipers to remember 'essence' of Christmas

By the CNN Wire Staff

Rome (CNN) – Pope Benedict XVI presided over Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve, delivering a homily that focused on the "essence" of the holiday rather than the "commercial celebration" it has become.

"Today Christmas has become a commercial celebration, whose bright lights hide the mystery of God's humility, which in turn calls us to humility and simplicity," the pope said after recalling the story of Christmas. "Let us ask the Lord to help us see through the superficial glitter of this season, and to discover behind it the child in the stable in Bethlehem, so as to find true joy and true light."

The 84-year-old pope, presiding over his seventh mass as pontiff, also conjured up an image of the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, explaining that visitors must bend down to enter its low opening, drawing a tie to what followers of Christ must do to find their faith.

"If we want to find the God who appeared as a child, then we must dismount from the high horse of our 'enlightened' reason," he said. "... In this spirit let us celebrate the liturgy of the holy night, let us strip away our fixation on what is material, on what can be measured and grasped."

- Dan Merica

Filed under: Catholic Church • Christmas • Holidays • Pope Benedict XVI

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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.