News / Middle East

Thousands of Pilgrims Celebrate Easter in Jerusalem

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Robert Berger

Easter celebrations in Jerusalem began with a sunrise service at the Garden Tomb, as pilgrims from around the world sang hymns of the resurrection.  The garden and ancient tomb carved into a rock are reminiscent of biblical accounts of the place where Jesus was buried.  The faithful faced the empty tomb and proclaimed, "The Lord is risen!"

Alex Wheatley came from California in the United States.

"I definitely got just a reconfirmation of things I already knew in my heart, that Jesus Christ lives and that He is my Savior and Redeemer," said Wheatley.

A few hours later, Mass was celebrated at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, believed to be the site where Jesus was crucified and rose from the dead.  

Fragrant incense rose above the ancient, stone tomb of Jesus into a golden rotunda.  It depicts a burst of light, symbolizing the glory of the resurrection.

Tae Wook Ha is from Seoul, South Korea.

"Well, as a Christian it is a great honor to be here especially on Easter day," he said.  "And all the Christians in Korea dream about coming here on Easter day.  And I am lucky to be here.  It is great."

For Catholics, Easter has been overshadowed by sex-abuse scandals in the Church, and accusations Pope Benedict did not do enough to discipline priests who abused children.  But Frank Law of Sydney, Australia said the scandal is mostly hype by the media.

"There are people who sin in any community; we have to forgive those who sin," he said.  "It has got nothing to do with the pope.  He has tried to forgive people for what they have done wrong.  And this is what he has been criticized for."

It was a big turnout, as Eastern Orthodox and Western Churches celebrated Easter on the same day for the first time in years.  And tourism is booming thanks to a lull in violence.

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