Pilgrims in Jerusalem for fire ritual

2012-04-14 16:00

kalahari.com

Jerusalem - Thousands of Christians lit candles and torches from a flame that emerged from the tomb of Jesus in a Jerusalem church on Saturday as they conducted an ancient fire ritual that celebrates the Messiah's resurrection.

Plumes of smoke wafted through the crammed Church of the Holy Sepulcher as jostling pilgrims carrying crosses, candles and mobile phones set to record the event passed the flame from one to another.

Flanking the chanting crowds were dozens of black-clad Israeli police, specialized khaki-clad riot-prevention forces and border security guards keeping order. Photographers teetered over the crowds trying to snap photos. Palestinian women ululated as the fire emerged. Young men banged on drums and a few heated pilgrims got into fistfights that were broken up by the Israeli forces.

Amid them all were clerics in colourful robes designating their particular church, trying to get as close as possible to the ornate chamber in the cavernous Holy Sepulcher where many Christian traditions believe that Jesus was briefly entombed after he was crucified nearby.

'Holy fire'

Once they had their candles lit, the pilgrims and clerics quickly rushed outside of the ancient church, seeking to pass on the flames to pilgrims waiting in the narrow cobblestone alleys nearby.

During the annual ceremony, top clerics enter the Edicule, the small chamber marking the site of Jesus' tomb. They emerge after some time to reveal candles lit with "holy fire" - said to be miraculously lit as a message to the faithful from heaven. The details of the flame's source are a closely guarded secret.

Some believing Christians seek to spread the holy fire around the world - symbolising the light of Christ and his resurrection after death.

"I am here because I would like to see the Easter Week from the Holy Land, because I think it is a very unique experience," said Nerea Craditotto, a Spanish pilgrim.

The pilgrims included visiting priests in black robes, elderly women wearing floral headscarves knotted under their chins, curious tourists and local Palestinian Christians dressed in their best clothes.

For many of them, the day is the pinnacle of Easter celebrations. Eastern Orthodox churches and several others celebrate Easter this week using the older Julian calendar.

Many of the Palestinians obtained Israeli military permission to leave their West Bank towns to enter Jerusalem for the event. In a long-standing grievance, Palestinian Christians and Muslims must seek Israeli military permission to visit their holy sites in Jerusalem.

Risky

The holy fire ritual, which has been practiced for at least 1 200 years, is particularly risky, because the cavernous, winding Sepulcher church has only one exit - the main door. Ambulances cannot reach the area.

This year, as most years, the holy fire spread without incident.

Despite the crowds, the open flames, and the single exit, there has been only one recorded major deadly incident linked to the ritual. In 1834, according to English traveller Robert Curzon, panicked pilgrims prompted a stampede trying to leave the church, and several hundred people were crushed or suffocated to death in the attempt.

But the six Christian sects that stake claim to different sections of the church have been reluctant to build an emergency exit or a fire escape. The sometimes feuding rivals don't want to give up any of their staked-out real estate to construct a second exit.

- AP
Read more on:    israel  |  religion
NEXT ON NEWS24X
SHARE:

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
1 comment
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining
 

Inside News24

 
/News
 

Stand up paddler rides over shark!

This stand up paddler had no idea that a great white shark was directly beneath him when he went gliding out to shore.

 
 

Where were you when you last felt alive?

Bear Grylls’ top 10 things kids should do outdoors
You HAVE to see this MTB Tsunami Fip!
Mountain unicycling – say WHAT?
Top tips to ensure you’re running right

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Jobs in Western Cape region

Financial Manager

Cape Town Northern Suburbs
BHRS
R123 - R1 234 Per Month

Test Engineer

Cape Town
Datafin Recruitment

iOS Engineer

Cape Town Northern Suburbs
Communicate Cape Town IT
R35 000 - R50 000 Per Month

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Magical Massinga

Spend 5 nights at the gorgeous Massinga Beach Lodge in Mozambique and only pay for 4 from R13 220 per person sharing. Includes return flights, accommodation, transfers and romantic turndown. Book now!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

Deal of the week!

20% off Afrikaans books, music and DVDs. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Save up to R1000 on Hisense smartphones!

View the large range of Hisense smartphones. Buy today and save up to R1000!

Hot gaming titles – available for pre-order!

Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare Day Zero Edition, Far Cry 4, Grand Theft Auto 5 and more. Pre-order now!

Get a free eBook

Buy 3 eBooks and get the cheapest FREE. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Bargain box – 60% off

Reduced prices, very limited stock. While stocks last. Hurry and shop now!

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

Horoscopes
Aquarius
Aquarius

Pushing too hard and doing too much may have left you feeling drained and overwhelmed. You may need time out to recharge and reset...read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.








Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.