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Orthodox Christians Celebrate Holy Fire Ritual in Jerusalem


Orthodox Christians are observing an Easter vigil. Western churches celebrated Easter a week ago, but Eastern churches follow a different calendar.

Orthodox Christians packed the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem's Old City for the Easter Ritual of the Holy Fire. Priests in festive robes led a procession into the church, and went into the ancient, stone tomb believed to be the place where Jesus rose from the dead.

Tradition says the Holy Spirit lights the candle of a priest in the tomb.

The congregation cheered as the flame spread to thousands of worshippers holding candles and illuminating the dark, cavernous church. It symbolizes that Jesus, the risen Lord, is the light of the world.

Many of the worshippers were Palestinian Christians, like Yaakoub Khoury.

"It give me a good chill, chill in my body," he said. "I love to be here every holiday. It's a happy holiday and it's a religious holiday. It's a good feeling."

There were also pilgrims from abroad, including John Martin who came from the U.S. state of Florida. He said Jerusalem on Easter is an experience of faith.

"Very moved. It's a wonderful experience to be in the Holy City on such an important day," he said. "It's very touching, it's very emotional."

Thousands of Israeli police were deployed as crowds packed the narrow cobblestone streets of the Old City. But the Ritual of the Holy Fire was peaceful.

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