Jerusalem’s Church of the Holy Sepulcher Filled With Thousands of Christians for “Holy Fire” Ceremony (Photos)

Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos III leads the procession ahead of the Orthodox Easter ceremony of the "Holy Fire" as thousands gather in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalems Old City, on April 11, 2015. (GALI TIBBON/AFP/Getty)
Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos III leads the procession ahead of the Orthodox Easter ceremony of the “Holy Fire” as thousands gather in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalems Old City, on April 11, 2015. (GALI TIBBON/AFP/Getty)

Thousands of Christians have gathered in Jerusalem for an ancient fire ceremony that celebrates Jesus’ resurrection.

In a ritual dating back at least 1,200 years, they crowded Saturday into the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, where Christian tradition holds that Jesus was crucified, buried and resurrected.

During the annual ceremony, top Eastern Orthodox clerics enter the Edicule, the small chamber marking the site of Jesus’ tomb.

They then emerge to reveal candles said to be miraculously lit with “holy fire” as a message to the faithful from heaven. The details of the flame’s source are a closely guarded secret.

Roman Catholics and Protestants marked Easter last Sunday, in accordance with the Gregorian calendar. Eastern Orthodox churches celebrate Easter this week using the older Julian calendar.

Christian pilgrims hold candles at the church of the Holy Sepulcher, traditionally believed to be the burial site of Jesus Christ, during the ceremony of the Holy Fire. (AP Photo/Dan Balilty)
Christian pilgrims hold candles at the church of the Holy Sepulcher, traditionally believed to be the burial site of Jesus Christ, during the ceremony of the Holy Fire. (AP Photo/Dan Balilty)
(GALI TIBBONGALI TIBBON/AFP/Getty)
(GALI TIBBONGALI TIBBON/AFP/Getty)
(GALI TIBBONGALI TIBBON/AFP/Getty)
(GALI TIBBONGALI TIBBON/AFP/Getty)
Christian Orthodox worshipers hold up candles lit from the "Holy Fire." (GALI TIBBONGALI TIBBON/AFP/Getty Images)
Christian Orthodox worshipers hold up candles lit from the “Holy Fire.” (GALI TIBBONGALI TIBBON/AFP/Getty Images)
A bird's-eye view of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem's Old City. (AHMAD GHARABLI/AFP/Getty Images)
A bird’s-eye view of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem’s Old City. (AHMAD GHARABLI/AFP/Getty Images)
(AHMAD GHARABLI/AFP/Getty Images)
(AHMAD GHARABLI/AFP/Getty Images)
Christian Orthodox worshipers raise their heads as a ray of light comes through during the "Holy Fire" Easter ceremony. (GALI TIBBONGALI TIBBON/AFP/Getty Images)
Christian Orthodox worshipers raise their heads as a ray of light comes through during the “Holy Fire” Easter ceremony. (GALI TIBBONGALI TIBBON/AFP/Getty Images)

SOURCE: The Associated Press

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