Thousands of Eastern Orthodox pilgrims attend holy fire ceremony

Thousands of Eastern Orthodox pilgrims attend holy fire ceremony

Ancient ritual celebrating Jesus’ resurrection held at Jerusalem’s Church of the Holy Sepulchre

Thousands of Christians have gathered in Jerusalem for an ancient fire ceremony that celebrates Jesus’ resurrection.

 

In a ritual dating back at least 1,200 years, they crowded Saturday into the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, where Christian tradition holds that Jesus was crucified, buried and resurrected.

 

During the annual ceremony, top Eastern Orthodox clerics enter the Edicule, the small chamber marking the site of Jesus’ tomb.

 

They then emerge to reveal candles said to be miraculously lit with “holy fire” as a message to the faithful from heaven. The details of the flame’s source are a closely guarded secret.

 

Roman Catholics and Protestants marked Easter in March, in accordance with the Gregorian calendar. Eastern Orthodox churches celebrate Easter this week using the older Julian calendar.

 

 

A Christian Orthodox worshipper prays as a ray of light comes through during the 'Holy Fire' Orthodox Easter procession in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, in Jerusalem's Old City on April 30, 2016.(AFP PHOTO / GALI TIBBON)

A Christian Orthodox worshipper prays as a ray of light comes through during the ‘Holy Fire’ Orthodox Easter procession in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, in Jerusalem’s Old City on April 30, 2016.(AFP PHOTO / GALI TIBBON)

Christian Orthodox pilgrims hold candles during Holy Fire ceremony in the church of the Holy Sepulchre, traditionally believed to be the burial site of Jesus Christ, Saturday, April 30, 2016 in Jerusalem. (AP Photo/Dusan Vranic)

Christian Orthodox pilgrims hold candles during Holy Fire ceremony in the church of the Holy Sepulchre, traditionally believed to be the burial site of Jesus Christ, Saturday, April 30, 2016 in Jerusalem. (AP Photo/Dusan Vranic)

Ethiopian Christian pilgrims hold candles during an Ethiopian Orthodox ceremony of the "Holy Fire" at the Dir Al-Sultan Church held on the roof of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem's Old City on April 30, 2016. ( AFP PHOTO / MENAHEM KAHANA)

Ethiopian Christian pilgrims hold candles during an Ethiopian Orthodox ceremony of the “Holy Fire” at the Dir Al-Sultan Church held on the roof of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem’s Old City on April 30, 2016. ( AFP PHOTO / MENAHEM KAHANA)

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 30, 2016, during the Orthodox Easter ceremonies.(AFP PHOTO / THOMAS COEX)

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 30, 2016, during the Orthodox Easter ceremonies.(AFP PHOTO / THOMAS COEX)

A Christian Orthodox worshipper holds candles lit from the "Holy Fire" as thousands gather in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem's Old City on April 30, 2016 during the Orthodox Easter ceremony.(AFP PHOTO / GALI TIBBON)

A Christian Orthodox worshipper holds candles lit from the “Holy Fire” as thousands gather in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem’s Old City on April 30, 2016 during the Orthodox Easter ceremony.(AFP PHOTO / GALI TIBBON)

Ethiopian Christian pilgrims hold candles during an Ethiopian Orthodox ceremony of the "Holy Fire" at the Dir Al-Sultan Church held on the roof of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem's Old City on April 30, 2016.(AFP PHOTO / MENAHEM KAHANA)

Ethiopian Christian pilgrims hold candles during an Ethiopian Orthodox ceremony of the “Holy Fire” at the Dir Al-Sultan Church held on the roof of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem’s Old City on April 30, 2016.(AFP PHOTO / MENAHEM KAHANA)

A Christian Orthodox pilgrim from Abkhazia raises her hands as a ray of light comes through during the "Holy Fire" Orthodox Easter procession in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, in Jerusalem's Old City on April 30, 2016. (AFP PHOTO / GALI TIBBON)

A Christian Orthodox pilgrim from Abkhazia raises her hands as a ray of light comes through during the “Holy Fire” Orthodox Easter procession in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, in Jerusalem’s Old City on April 30, 2016. (AFP PHOTO / GALI TIBBON)

Christian Orthodox worshippers hold candles lit from the "Holy Fire" as thousands gather in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem's Old City on April 30, 2016 during the Orthodox Easter ceremony.(AFP PHOTO/GALI TIBBON)

Christian Orthodox worshippers hold candles lit from the “Holy Fire” as thousands gather in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem’s Old City on April 30, 2016 during the Orthodox Easter ceremony.(AFP PHOTO/GALI TIBBON)

Christian Orthodox worshippers take part in the "Holy Fire" ceremony outside the Church of the Nativity in the biblical West Bank town of Bethlehem on April 30, 2016.(AFP PHOTO / MUSA AL SHAER)

Christian Orthodox worshippers take part in the “Holy Fire” ceremony outside the Church of the Nativity in the biblical West Bank town of Bethlehem on April 30, 2016.(AFP PHOTO / MUSA AL SHAER)

Copyright 2016 The Associated Press.

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