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Christian pilgrims brave stormy Good Friday

23 april 2011, 10:39
Photo ©www.zimbio.com
Photo ©www.zimbio.com
Thousands of Christian pilgrims braved storms, hail and heavy security in Jerusalem's Old City to pray along the route tradition holds Jesus took to his crucifixion on Good Friday, AFP reports.

As part of the Good Friday ceremonies, the faithful descend onto the Old City to walk the Via Dolorosa, or Way of Suffering, the route tradition says Jesus carried the cross on which he was to be crucified by the Romans.

Latin Patriarch Fuad Twal, the Catholic Church's representative in the Holy Land, led an early morning procession, beginning at the Monastery of Flagellation, where Jesus was beaten, mocked and crowned with thorns.

Later in the morning, other denominations walked the same route that follows the narrow often climbing street and the 14 stations of the cross along its way, including where Jesus met his mother, fell several times, was helped in carrying the cross, and met the lamenting women of Jerusalem.

The procession ends at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, built over the sites where Christians believe Christ was crucified and buried.

However, heavy Israeli security -- with police setting up road blocks and metal barriers -- prevented many from reaching the sacred shrine.

"We were late and now all the ways into the church are blocked off," said Degratias Shumbusho, a 54-year-old Catholic pilgrim from Tanzania. "It is the first time I've been here and maybe the last as I won't be able to afford it again," he said.

"Seeing the Church is what brought me here. It's the backbone of Christianity. Maybe we will get in tomorrow," he said, the disappointment evident on his face.

Israeli forces routinely limit the number of worshippers allowed into the church over the Easter weekend, fearing crowd control issues in the flashpoint Holy City.

Others, who made it in, hailed the spiritual experience.

"This is the best day of my life," said Milan Ivanovitch, 45, from Belgrade, who was carrying a large wooden cross and a Serbian flag.

"I came here with my cross to sanctify it. And I took the cross to Golgotha," he said hugging it in joy.

This year pilgrims had to contend with heavy rains, but said they would not be deterred.

"It started raining just as we walked through the gates, and my first image was of heaven weeping," said Elizabeth, an American in her 20s who was sitting under a canopy overlooking Golgotha, the site where Jesus was crucified.

Each year, thousands of Christians flock to tread the route that is based on a devotional walk first laid out by the Roman Catholic Church's Franciscan order in the 14th century.

The Christian Gospels teach that on the third day after he was crucified, Jesus rose from the dead. The event is commemorated by Easter, the most important day of the church year to most Christians.

By Hazel Ward

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