Christian Pilgrims Hold “Holy Fire” Ceremony In Jerusalem’s Old City

Christian pilgrims hold candles at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, believed to be the burial site of Jesus Christ, during the ceremony of the "holy fire" in Jerusalem's Old City on Saturday. (Dan Balilty / Associated Press / April 19, 2014)
Christian pilgrims hold candles at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, believed to be the burial site of Jesus Christ, during the ceremony of the “holy fire” in Jerusalem’s Old City on Saturday. (Dan Balilty / Associated Press / April 19, 2014)

Thousands of people gathered at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem’s Old City on Saturday for the lighting of the “holy fire,” an annual ritual marking the Christian belief in the resurrection of Jesus Christ after his crucifixion.

The Greek Orthodox patriarch of Jerusalem battled his way through crowds shortly after midday to enter the church’s small chapel, where what is believed to be Jesus’ tomb is located. Minutes later, the pilgrims inside the small basilica cheered as he emerged carrying two lit bundles of 33 candles each symbolizing the age of Jesus at the time of his death.

Many of those gathered carried similar bundles and sought to have them lighted by the patriach’s flames. Within seconds, the basilica was aglow from the candles as the church bells were sounding.

The fire is taken to churches in Jerusalem, the West Bank, Gaza Strip and elsewhere to be used in Easter Sunday services.

This year, the Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches celebrate Easter at the same time. Thousands of pilgrims from all over the world have gathered in Jerusalem.

Israeli police closed several roads leading to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and set up barricades at the gates to the Old City as thousands of Palestinian and international pilgrims wanted to reach the church to watch the ceremony of the holy fire. Scuffles were reported in some places as crowds tried to battle their way through police lines to reach the church.

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SOURCE: The Los Angeles Times
Maher Abukhater

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