Thousands of Orthodox Christians Gather in Jerusalem to Celebrate 'Holy Fire' Amid Tensions

On Saturday, amid growing political tensions, thousands of Orthodox Christians celebrated the Holy Fire ceremony, which symbolizes the resurrection of Christ, in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem. 

On the eve of the Orthodox Passover, thousands of people attended the “holy fire” ceremony in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem on Saturday.

Tens of thousands of faithful celebrated this millennial rite each year which symbolizes the resurrection of Jesus, until the start of the coronavirus epidemic which caused a sharp reduction in their number over the past two years.

According to Christian tradition, the Basilica of the Holy Sepulcher is built on the site where Jesus was crucified, buried and resurrected. It is run by six Christian churches.

The Times of Israel reports that, on Saturday, while the unmasked and enthusiastic faithful gathered in the gloomy Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the Greek Patriarch Theophilus III entered the Holy Aedicule, a room built in the center of the rotunda, to return with two lit candles.

He then passed these flames to the thousands of worshipers who held up bundles of candles. According to the media, this flame will also be “transferred to Orthodox communities in other countries by special flights”.

This rite, symbol of eternity, peace and renewal, is the most sacred event of the Orthodox calendar.

"I would not have imagined that I could be here one day," Anthony Botros, who came from Canada, told AFP. “It's something you can't describe (…) It's so peaceful,” added the 25-year-old.

Christians made up more than 18% of the population of the Holy Land when the State of Israel was created in 1948, but they are now less than 2%, mostly Orthodox.

A celebration that occurs against a backdrop of strong tensions and deadly clashes between Palestinian demonstrators and Israeli forces not far from the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, in the area of ​​the esplanade of the Mosques, also located in East Jerusalem.

For more than a week and in the middle of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, these clashes have resulted in a total of more than 250 Palestinians injured.

Camille Westphal Perrier (with AFP)

Image credit: Shutterstock / Gregory Gerber

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