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Last Updated: Wednesday, 6 December 2006, 11:53 GMT
Church leaders to visit Bethlehem
Bethlehem
The leaders have urged other Christians to visit Bethlehem
The Archbishop of Canterbury and the head of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales are to lead a pre-Christmas pilgrimage to Bethlehem.

Rowan Williams and Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor say the trip is in solidarity with Christians because of Israeli security measures there.

Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor has said the town is "blocked in" by the Israeli security wall and checkpoints.

Dr Williams recently had minor surgery to remove a cyst, it has emerged.

The procedure - which involved the cyst being removed from the archbishop's left arm - has forced him to rearrange his engagements for the remainder of this week.

'Steadily strangled'

Both Dr Williams and Cardinal O'Connor have urged other Christians to visit Bethlehem.

In his Christmas address last year, Cardinal O'Connor declared that the Christ child would be weeping for the town of his birth as it was "steadily strangled".

Dr Williams has warned of an exodus of Christians from Bethlehem.

The two archbishops will travel to Bethlehem with Bishop Nathan Hovhannisian, of the Armenian Church of Great Britain, and Rev David Coffey, of the Free Churches.

The group will arrive in the Holy Land and travel to Jerusalem on 20 December, returning to the UK on 23 December.

Following the removal of the small cyst, Dr Williams is expected to resume his duties at the weekend.

A statement issued by Lambeth Palace said: "The procedure was straightforward and he is making a very good recovery."


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