A quiet Christmas mass in Bethlehem's Nativity Church

Worshippers donned masks and kept their distance at Christmas Day mass in the Church of Nativity in Bethlehem,

believed by Christians to be the birthplace of Jesus.

The service usually attracts hundreds of attendees from across the world, but the impact of COVID-19 rules and restrictions meant a far smaller crowd than previous years.

Just 12 months ago the Palestinian town in the West Bank was celebrating its busiest Christmas season for two decades, following a sharp increase in pilgrims and tourists after regional violence diminished.

But now, hotels that were adding new wings in 2019 are shuttered and Christmas festivities will be held online.

The newly-appointed Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Pierbattista Pizzaballa, who himself contracted the virus and has since recovered, led this year's celebrations, delivering his Christmas message on Christmas Eve (December 24).