( November 27, 2013, Jerusalem, Sri Lanka Guardian) "A Mass to bestow blessings on the occasion of His Excellency President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s 68th birthday was held at the Church of the Nativity, the birthplace of Jesus Christ on 23rd November in Bethlehem,' a statement issued by the Sri Lankan embassy in Israel said.

"The event jointly coordinated between the Embassy of Sri Lanka and the Office of the Representative of Sri Lanka in the Palestinian Authority under the direct supervision of Mr. Sarath Wijesinghe, Sri Lanka’s Ambassador to Israel was very well attended with a large presence from the Sri Lankan and Palestinian Christian communities who took part in the Service.

"Ambassador Wijesinghe in his address to the audience stated that this annual event of hosting a blessing service for the President on his birthday at the holiest site venerated by Christians all over the world, commenced in 2007 with the establishment of our Representative’s Office in the Palestinian Authority. Commenting on the long standing and enduring friendship between Sri Lanka and the Palestinian Authority, the Ambassador stated that Sri Lanka’s foreign policy under the Mahinda Chinthana is based on being “Friends with all and enemies of none”. Elaborating on the many laudable achievements the country has accomplished under the visionary and able guidance and leadership of H.E. Mahinda Rajapaksa, the Ambassador further stated that Sri Lankans today stand at the cusp of a new era of peace and stability which has been proven with the successful hosting of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting(CHOGM) by Sri Lanka from 15th – 17th November 2013.

"Mr. Michael Shomali addressing the gathering in his capacity as Sri Lanka’s Hony. Consul in Bethlehem stated that His Excellency the President’s name is well known throughout Palestine and that the road named after the President is a reflection of the strong bonds of friendship, solidarity and goodwill between His Excellency President Rajapaksa and the Palestinian Authority.

"The Mass led by Rev. Father Iyad Twal to bless the President, the country and the congregation, was also attended by Mr. Samy Morra/ Representative of the Mayor of Bethlehem, Members of the Diplomatic Corp in the Palestinian Authority and high ranking officials from the Palestinian Authority.

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