A wooden fragment said to be from the crib of the infant Jesus arrived in Jerusalem on Friday on its way back to Bethlehem after a millenium-long absence.
The relic, housed in Rome since the seventh century, was presented to the Franciscan custodians of the Holy Land at a mass in the Notre Dame Catholic centre opposite the walls of Jerusalem's Old city.
It will be taken to Bethlehem on Saturday, in time for the traditional lighting of the Christmas tree in Manger Square.
The chief custodian for the Holy Land, Francesco Patton, said that the relic was sent from Bethlehem to Rome around the year 640 as gift to Pope Theodore I from Sophronius, Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem.
The Franciscan custodians' website says that during its time in Rome the relic was visited by "very large number of pilgrims from all over the world" and is expected to attract many more to its home in Bethlehem.
We had a relic brought to our church here years back - a piece of bone from a finger of St Therese of the Little Flower. People came from a wide area to view it & pay their respects. I think after 3 days it continued its travels to another place (probably OKC). It was a great honor for our church to be selected, the priest told us. I thought it was rather grisly to keep a piece of this woman's finger that way. I filed past to get a peek, but I wasn't kissing the display case, kneeling, make the sign of the cross. : shrug
Admittedly, this is a well-preserved piece of wood, but there is not spirit or energy of Jesus Christ preserved in it, I don't believe. Christ is here with us, thank God.
Psalm 121:1-2 I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help. My help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth.