Pilgrims throng Jerusalem churches for Easter Sunday

Thousands of Christians from around the world gathered Sunday at Jerusalem holy sites to celebrate Easter Sunday with prayer and hymns. The Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Michel Sabbah, the top Roman Catholic official in the Holy Land, celebrated mass at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, built over the skull-shaped rocky mount believed to be the place where Jesus was crucified. Armenian priests cloaked in black gowns and head dress followed Sabbah into the candlelit church singing the Lord's Prayer. The Catholic priest emerged from the Sepulchre with a flame and lit worshippers' candles that gradually illuminated the painted dome ceiling erected during the Crusader era. Worshippers crowded into the church as organs played solemn tunes. Outside, pilgrims marched past pictures of Jesus on an overcast day. Crowds were larger than in recent years, encouraged by a reduction in Palestinian violence. The Easter services underlined one of Christianity's doctrinal differences: Roman Catholics believe Jesus Christ was buried in the Holy Sepulchre, while many Protestant denominations believe he was buried in the Garden Tomb, north of the Old City. More processions will march through the Old City this weekend when Orthodox Christians, who follow a different calendar than the Western Church, celebrate Good Friday and Easter Sunday.