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Fire damages Bethlehem's Nativity church, hours after Pope Francis' visit

Published on May 27, 2014 9:57 PM

BETHLEHEM, Palestinian Territories (AFP) - A fire broke out in Bethlehem's Church of the Nativity early on Tuesday, just hours after Pope Francis wrapped up a three-day Middle East pilgrimage which saw him visit the shrine.

Bethlehem governor Abdel-Fatah Hamayel told AFP it was a small fire which had broken out accidentally when an oil lamp fell over just before dawn, causing some damage to fabric wall hangings inside the Grotto of the Nativity itself.

"It was an accident that started when an oil lamp fell over. The fire started on its own, then burned itself out," he said.

The fire, which was discovered at around 4:30 am (9:00 am, Singapore time) when the security guard smelled smoke, broke out in the cave underneath the 4th-century basilica where Christians believe Mary gave birth to Jesus.

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