15,000 attend Holy Saturday ceremony

Area around Church of the Holy Sepulcher secured; Old City closed to cars.

greek ortho patriarch (photo credit: AP)
greek ortho patriarch
(photo credit: AP)
Some 15,000 people attended Holy Saturday ceremonies Jerusalem on Saturday. Thousands of police were positioned around the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in east Jerusalem, hoping to prevent confrontations between various groups of worshippers expected to make their way to the church. Police were also patrolling streets and alleys adjacent to the church, and closed the Old City to cars, requesting that visitors park outside the walls, Israel Radio reported. Holy Saturday, which falls between Good Friday and Easter Day, marks the day on which Christ's body lay in his tomb. Easter rites at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher have been marked by violence in the past. Since the Crusades, three major denominations have controlled the church - Greek Orthodox, Armenian Orthodox and (Latin) Roman Catholic - with the rights and privileges of all of the communities protected by the Status Quo of the Holy Places set up in 1852. According to Dep.-Cmdr. Asher Ben- Atrzi, head of the Israel Police Interpol and Foreign Liaison Section, almost every year a dispute erupts between the Armenians and the Greeks over who enters the cave where Jesus is believed to be buried first. The different denominations also argue over prayer times. 'The police really need to be hands on at the churches,' he explained, 'to prevent them from arguing and fighting.'