Coronavirus dampens Christmas joy in Bethlehem and elsewhere

BETHLEHEM, West Bank (AP) — Bethlehem has ushered in Christmas Eve with a stream of joyous marching bands and the triumphant arrival of the top Catholic clergyman in the Holy Land. But few people were there to greet them as the coronavirus pandemic and a strict lockdown dampened celebrations in the traditional birthplace of Jesus. Similar subdued scenes were repeated across the world as the festive family gatherings and packed prayers that typically mark the holiday were scaled back or canceled altogether. In Australia, worshippers had to book tickets online to attend socially distanced church services. Pope Francis is set to celebrate Mass in the near-empty Vatican basilica early in the evening, hours before a nationwide curfew goes into effect.