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Christians Celebrate Palm Sunday in Jerusalem

Catholic clergy carry palm fronds during the Palm Sunday procession in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem's Old City, April 17, 2011

The holiest period on the Christian calendar has begun with holiday celebrations in Jerusalem.

Bells summoned the Christian faithful to Palm Sunday prayers at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem’s Old City, the traditional site of Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection. Palm Sunday is the beginning of Easter Holy Week and marks Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem 2,000 years ago.

According to the New Testament, people threw palm branches on the road to welcome Him when he rode into the city on a donkey.

Inside the church, priests and pilgrims held a festive procession around the ancient stone sepulcher of Jesus. They waved palm and olive branches, engulfed in a fragrant cloud of incense.

The pilgrims came from all over the world.

"It is awesome. It makes the Bible so much more real," said Cathy James, who is from the city of St. Louis in the United States.

"It is amazing," she added. "It is hard to think that 2,000 years ago all these things took place, but the Bible says it is true and that is what I believe."

Timothy Teja-Sukmana of Bali, Indonesia said Jerusalem during Easter is an experience of faith.

"We will say, ‘Hosanna to the King of Kings.’ We come to celebrate His goodness," he said. "We celebrate the Palm Sunday. We love Jerusalem and we pray for Jerusalem almost every day."

There has been a big turnout of pilgrims for many years, thanks to a lull in Israeli-Palestinian violence. Jerusalem's walled Old City will be packed with Jewish and Christian pilgrims this week because Easter coincides this year with the week-long biblical Feast of Passover.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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