Christian pilgrims crowd Jerusalem's Old City for Holy Fire ceremony

By Staff, Reuters
 Huge crowds came to Jerusalem's old city on Saturday to celebrate the Orthodox Easter Holy Fire ceremony and other events. The crowding forced police to close the Christian Quarter and tempers flared as Christian pilgrims and local Christians could not get through to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. 

The church is believed to be built on the site of Jesus' crucifixion, burial and resurrection.

The Holy Fire is considered a miracle occurring every year on Holy Saturday, the day preceding Orthodox Easter Sunday. 

Israeli police deployed hundreds of officers in to secure the old city as Christian worshipers from the Orthodox denominations eagerly anticipated the ceremony.

Photo: Christian pilgrims crowd Jerusalem's Old City (Credit: Seth Frantzman)Photo: Christian pilgrims crowd Jerusalem's Old City (Credit: Seth Frantzman)

"Israeli police have completed final security arrangements for the Holy Fire ceremony taking place in the church of the Sepulchre in the Old City," said Police Spokesman, Micky Rosenfeld. "Hundreds of extra police officers in and around the area including border police, special patrol units and under covered units in order to secure the event."

Those who arrived early watched as the key-holder to the sacred site arrived to unlock the church doors. Due to the church being divided by different denominations, the keys are held by a Muslim man whose family has been considered neutral by all parties for several generations.

Each year at 1400 local time (1200GMT), on the day before Orthodox Easter Sunday, the ceremony marks a miracle.

After a procession around the church, all of the lights inside are extinguished before the entrance of the Greek Orthodox Patriarch who carries a handful of candles. When the Patriarch emerges, the candles are believed to be lit by a miraculous flame which is then used to light the candles of the congregation

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