J'lem church leaders pray for ME peace ahead of Easter

Holy Fire Ceremony to take place in Church of the Holy Sepulchre; will be attended by thousands and broadcast live around globe.

By JONAH MANDEL
April 22, 2011 03:35
2 minute read.
Washing of the Feet ceremony, Jerusalem.

greek orthodox patriarch jerusalem_311. (photo credit: (Baz Ratner/Reuters))

 
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Heads of churches in Jerusalem have urged Christians “to pray for reconciliation among people in the Holy Land, where the deteriorating situation makes peace and justice seem further away than ever before,” in a Thursday message ahead of Easter Sunday.

Latin Patriarch Fouad Twal; Greek-Melkite-Catholic Patriarch Archbishop Joseph-Jules Zerey; Maronite Patriarchal Exarch Archbishop Paul Sayyah; Syrian Catholic Patriarchal Exarch Bishop Pierre Malki; Armenian Catholic Patriarchal Exarch Fr. Rafael Minassian and Holy Land Custodian Fr. Pierbattista Pizzaballa, OFM, are among the signatories on the letter cited by Catholic News Agency.

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The message notes the joy of the upcoming Easter, which celebrates the resurrection of Jesus Christ, but adds that “when we in Jerusalem, the city of redemption, see the suffering of our Christian brothers and sisters in Egypt, Iraq and elsewhere in our region our joy becomes more solemn.”

This year’s Easter will also be joyous to Christians since it will be celebrated on the same day by Orthodox, Protestant and Catholic believers, a rather rare occurrence given that Western churches calculate the date using a Gregorian calendar, while the Orthodox church uses the older Julian calendar.

The Holy Fire Ceremony, to take place in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem’s Old City, will be attended by many thousands of Orthodox Christians who will pass on a flame borne by Greek Orthodox and Armenian clergymen exiting the place of Jesus’s tomb within the church.

The ceremony, held on the Saturday before Easter, was in the past a source of tension between the different Christian sects.

A police spokesman on Thursday noted that in past years, the peace between the different Christian sects was kept, and expressed the hope that Saturday’s events would bear no surprises. All police involved in securing the church, he added, will be carrying personal fire extinguishers as a precaution, least a fire break out.

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A status quo is tightly maintained over the church – believed to be the location of Jesus Christ’s crucifixion, burial and resurrection – by representatives of the Roman Catholic, Armenian and Greek Orthodox churches.

The ceremony will be broadcast live around the world, and giant screens in the Old City will provide believers the opportunity to see it from nearby. The fire will be later taken to Easter ceremonies around the world.

The Tourism Ministry anticipated some 100,000 tourists – Jewish and Christian – for the Easter and Pessah week. Police will be heavily deployed around the church and the Old City to maintain order.

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