JERUSALEM, April 24, 2011 (AFP) - Christian pilgrims gathered to pray in Jerusalem's Church of the Holy Sepulchre to celebrate Easter Sunday at the traditional site of Jesus's crucifixion and burial.
Worshippers knelt to press their foreheads and kiss the stone on which they believe his body was prepared for the tomb.
|AFP - Christian Orthodox worshippers hold up candles lit from the 'Holy Fire' as thousands gather in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem's old city on April 23, 2011|
Others lit bundles of candles, placing them on altars where their smoke mingled with pungent incense in the dimly lit but cavernous shrine.
Priests in festive white cassocks over their regular black robes chanted and sang hymns in front of the grotto where Jesus is believed to have risen from the dead.
"For me it is the dream of my life to celebrate here in this place of the resurrection," said Andre Gadasin, 54, a pilgrim from Odessa in Ukraine.
The centuries-old church is shared uneasily by six denominations of Christ's followers -- Greek Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Armenian Orthodox, Egyptian Copts, Syrian Orthodox and Ethiopian Orthodox.
In previous years Israeli police have had to rush in to the church to break up fist fights between rival monks over alleged attempts to alter a delicate status quo hammered out over the centuries, but this year calm prevailed.
Latin Patriarch Fuad Twal, the senior Roman Catholic cleric in the Holy Land, saluted the spirit of the "Arab Spring" in his Easter homily.
"A whole generation is looking for a resurrection of their people and have no other tools for that change than their willingness and their confidence in a better future," Twal said.
"All around us, a whole generation of young people have shaken the dust of their sad history and has launched the search for a new life imbued with justice and dignity."