Thousands of Orthodox Christians from across the globe marked Good Friday with a procession through Jerusalem’s Old City, retracing the steps Jesus Christ is believed to have taken on the day of his crucifixion.
The pilgrims, some carrying crosses and others praying, retraced the 14 Stations of the Cross and walked to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre where Jesus Christ is believed to be buried.
Hundreds of Israeli security forces were deployed inside the walled Old City, and around the church, which is in East Jerusalem, an AFP journalist said.
Their presence was to regulate the flow of worshipers through the narrow streets rather than to calm fears of potential violence, despite weeks of renewed tensions between Israelis and Palestinians.
Crowds of pilgrims queued to enter the Holy Sepulchre, many scribbling prayers on pieces of paper which they planned to recite inside the church.
“We pray for the whole community,” Otyrba Ilona, 36, told AFP, explaining she came in a group of 40 people from Abkhazia, a separatist region of Georgia in the Caucasus.
“The Georgian Church does not give us our independence. All here are praying for it,” she said.
Dragan Ilic, 35, who had traveled from Switzerland and was among a group of around 50 Serbians, kept his prayer secret.
But, like all the others, he said the visit was incredibly important to him.
Thousands of pilgrims came from Egypt, which is the only Arab country besides Jordan to have diplomatic relations with Israel even if the ties are often strained.
“This pilgrimage is not an obligation. But it is the dream of all (Coptic Christian) Egyptians,” said Christina Salama, who came with her parents.
The majority of the Christians in the Holy Land belong to the Orthodox faith but traditionally do not play a major part in the procession.
Eastern and Western Christians mark Easter according to different calendars.