Christians Mark Good Friday in Jerusalem

Thousands of Christian clergymen, worshippers and pilgrims thronged the alleyways of Jerusalem's Old City, chanting hymns and bearing crosses as they marked Good Friday by retracing Jesus' final footsteps.

Hundreds attended prayers Friday morning at Jerusalem's Church of the Holy Sepulcher, where Christian tradition says Jesus was crucified and resurrected.

Brown-robed Roman Catholic friars filed into the ancient church after its wooden doors were unlocked. They were followed by pilgrims, some of whom fell to their knees to kiss a smooth stone believed to mark the spot where Jesus' body was placed after he was crucified.

Steps away, inside the church, were the stairs leading to Golgotha, marking the site of the crucifixion. Nearby was the structure marking the site of the cave where Jesus is said to have been entombed.

Afterward, Christians filled the stone alleyways of Jerusalem's Old City in Good Friday processions following Jesus' route to his crucifixion. The processions retrace Christ's final journey down the Via Dolorosa, the Way of Sorrows, where 14 stations commemorate events that befell him as he was led to his death.

Crowds pushed through the streets, with some bearing wooden crosses. Some groups chanted hymns in Latin, while local Christians sang in Arabic.

One pilgrim, John Herder of Ontario, Canada, said he had traveled to Jerusalem for the occasion.

"It's a very moving experience," he said.

A group of pilgrims from Orange County, California performed an annual re-enactment of the events of Good Friday. A man dressed as Jesus, wearing a loincloth and a crown of thorns, was taken through the streets by two men dressed as Roman legionnaires.

They were escorted by curious bystanders snapping photos and a contingent of policemen, some of the hundreds of Israeli security personnel deployed to keep order.

The Old City was full of visitors of different faiths Friday. The Jewish Quarter and the Western Wall was packed with people, many of them Jewish Israelis celebrating the festival of Passover.

One of the key dates in the Christian calendar, Good Friday marks Christ's crucifixion and death, as recounted in the Bible. It is followed by the celebration of his resurrection on Easter Sunday.

Orthodox Christians follow a different calendar and mark Good Friday on April 17.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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