Thousands of Orthodox faithful, carrying torches and bundles of candles signifying the 33 years of Jesus' life, packed into Christianity's holiest shrine on Saturday to celebrate Easter Week's holy fire ritual.
Christians traditionally believe Jesus was crucified and buried at the site in Jerusalem's Old City where the Church of the Holy Sepulcher now stands.
The holy fire ritual, celebrated the day before the Orthodox Easter, honors the belief that a holy fire appears spontaneously from Jesus' tomb as a message that he has not forgotten his followers.
About 10,000 worshippers attended the afternoon ceremony, some arriving before dawn to make sure they would be able to enter the cavernous, heavily secured church. Believers who arrived too late celebrated outside in the church's cobblestone courtyard, some of them beating on hand drums.
Inside the darkened church, worshippers clutching bundles of unlit tapers and torches waited expectantly as the Greek Orthodox Patriarch in the Holy Land, Theofilos III, descended with a group of Greek, Armenian and other Orthodox clergy into Jesus' traditional tomb. After the flame appeared there, Theofilos passed it from the tomb to believers inside the church's main hall, who cheered and wept, and rushed to light their own candles and torches.