Thousands celebrate Easter in Holy Land

2014-04-20 12:32
A Christian worshiper lights a candle during Easter Sunday mass in the Church of Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem's Old City. (Gali Tibbon, AFP)

A Christian worshiper lights a candle during Easter Sunday mass in the Church of Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem's Old City. (Gali Tibbon, AFP)

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Jerusalem - Thousands of pilgrims from around the world are celebrating Easter in the Holy Land, commemorating the day when according to Christian tradition Jesus was resurrected in Jerusalem two millennia ago.

Latin Patriarch Fouad Twal led Mass at the Holy Sepulcher church in Jerusalem on Sunday. The site is where Christians believe Jesus was crucified, buried and resurrected.

In the West Bank town of Bethlehem, worshippers prayed and lit candles at the Church of the Nativity, traditionally believed to be the birthplace of Jesus.

Easter was also celebrated in Gaza where less than three thousand Christians live among about 1.7 million Muslims.

Christian communities in the Holy Land, as well as elsewhere in the Middle East, have been declining in recent years due to regional turmoil.

Meanwhile, at the Vatican Pope Francis stood under sunny skies before a flock so numerous they overflowed the flower-bedecked St Peter's Square.

Clear skies

Even before Mass began in late morning, more than 100 000 tourist, Romans and pilgrims, young and old, had turned out for the Mass. Many more streamed in throughout the ceremony.

The broad boulevard leading from the square to the Tiber river filled up with the faithful and the curious, trying to catch a glimpse of the pontiff at the altar under a canopy erected on the steps of St Peter's Basilica.

A rainstorm had lashed Rome on Saturday night, with thunder competing with the sound of hymns when Francis led a vigil service in St Peter's Basilica. Dawn brought clear skies and warm temperatures for Easter, the culmination of Holy Week, the day which marks the Christian belief that Jesus rose from the dead after his crucifixion.

This year the Roman Catholic church's celebration of Easter coincided with that of the Orthodox church and some of the hymns at the Vatican Mass were in Russian.

Francis didn't give a homily, since traditionally pontiffs' main remarks on Easter come during the noon-time "Urbi et Orbi" (Latin for 'to the city and the world') address.

Reflecting the worldwide reach of the Catholic church, faithful read aloud prayers and passages from the Bible in Hindu, French, Chinese, German, Korean, Spanish, Italian and English.

- AP
Read more on:    pope francis  |  vatican city  |  israel  |  religion
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