Christians in Jerusalem celebrated the Holy Fire ceremony on Saturday at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, which is located in occupied East Jerusalem and under the control of Israeli police. It is situated on the site which is believed to be the place where the crucifixion and burial of Jesus took place. The Holy Fire ceremony, which is a crucial Orthodox Easter ritual, drew hundreds of Christians to Jerusalem despite police restrictions. By pointing to safety concerns, the police limited the attendance inside the church to 1,800 and outside it to 1,200. Church leaders criticized the police for imposing the limitations and urged people to avoid the restrictions.
BBC News Services reports:
Thousands of Christians filled Jerusalem’s Old City on Saturday for an important Orthodox Easter ritual, despite restrictions by Israeli police.
The Holy Fire ceremony drew huge crowds to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, in occupied East Jerusalem, where Israeli Police control security.
It sits on the site where Christians believe Jesus was crucified and buried.
Police had limited attendance to 1,800 people inside and 1,200 outside, citing safety reasons.
Church leaders urged Christians to ignore restrictions and criticised the police presence at the event.
The Holy Fire ritual can be traced back centuries and typically takes place amid packed crowds in the holiest site in Christianity. Christian pilgrims from around the world travel for the ceremony, which symbolises Jesus’s resurrection.
After hours of anticipation on Saturday, the Greek Orthodox Patriarch emerged from the sealed empty tomb with a lighted candle – an act considered an annual miracle before Orthodox Easter Sunday.
The flames were passed from person to person around the church and with both local Christians and foreign pilgrims who were waiting in the narrow streets nearby.
In previous years, as many as 10,000 worshippers packed into the church, with many more crowding into the surrounding alleyways of the Old City.
But for the second year running, church leaders were told that access would be considerably restricted over safety concerns.
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