Middle East News
Christians begin Easter celebrations in Jerusalem
Apr 6, 2012, 8:46 GMT
Jerusalem - Hundreds of Christian pilgrims began marking Easter in Jerusalem Friday, tracing Jesus Christ's last journey to his crucifixion along the Via Dolorosa ('Way of Grief,' or 'Way of Suffering') in the Old City.
Led by Franciscan Monks, the pilgrims, some carrying crosses including full-scale replicas, stopped to pray at each Station of the Cross, which commemorate specific incidents which happened to Christ on the way to the crucifixion.
The Via Dolorosa has fourteen stations, the last nine of which are in the Church of the Holy Sepulcre, where, according to tradition, Christ was crucified and then buried.
Easter commemorations had begun some hours earlier, with a procession and mass, in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, led by Latin Patriarch Fouad Twal.
Twal was accompanied by the Jerusalem-based consul generals of France, Spain and Italy, representing their Catholic countries, as well as a number of priests.
Israel meanwhile has placed its forces on high alert, ahead of both the Easter celebrations, and the Jewish Passover festival, which marks the biblical exodus from Egypt and begins at sunset.
Heightened security was in place all over the country, a police spokesman said, with the emphasis on public places, and a large police presence in the Old City of Jerusalem.
He said the alert was at its second highest level, but noted that this was the same level as in previous years.
The Israeli military also closed off crossing points to and from the West Bank until Saturday night. However, a military statement said Israel has allowed 500 of the Gaza Strip's tiny Christian community to enter Israel or the West Bank, and has authorized permits into Israel for 20,000 West Bank Christians.
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