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Pilgrims Flock to Jerusalem to Celebrate Easter

Christian clergymen hold candles during the Easter Sunday procession at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, traditionally believed by many to be the site of the crucifixion and burial of Jesus Christ, in Jerusalem's Old City, April 20, 2014.
Christians around the world are celebrating Easter, marking the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.

Easter dawned in Jerusalem with a sunrise service at the Garden Tomb. The holy place is said to resemble biblical accounts of the place where Jesus was buried. Facing an ancient, empty tomb carved into a rock, the faithful sang hymns and proclaimed that “Jesus is risen.”

Pilgrims came from all over the world, including Jay Rackson from the U.S. state of Iowa.

“Well there’s nothing really quite like it, to celebrate Easter Sunday morning at the Garden Tomb," he said. "The tomb is empty, He’s no longer in the grave, he’s risen from the dead and he lives forever.”

A few hours later, Easter Mass was celebrated at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.

Priests and monks in festive robes chanted the Easter liturgy as a fragrant cloud of incense rose above ancient stone tomb, which Christians believe is the very place where Jesus rose from the dead.

It was a big turnout because the calendars of the Eastern Orthodox and Western churches coincide this year, and they are celebrating Easter on the same day.

Andreu Tzimas, an Orthodox pilgrim from Greece, said he was touched by the holy spirit.

“The holy spirit is here and here and here, it’s everywhere in this place because all the religions are here; and you can see the holy spirit,” he said.

But while the Easter observances were peaceful, there was trouble nearby at a Jerusalem holy place that is revered by both Muslims and Jews.

Israeli riot police moved into the Mosque of al Aqsa compound and used stun grenades to disperse Palestinians throwing stones and firecrackers.

The site is a flashpoint of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: For Jews, it is their holiest place known as the Temple Mount, while the mosque marks the third holiest place in Islam.

There have been clashes at the site over the past week, during the Jewish Passover holiday, amid a crisis in Israeli-Palestinian peace talks