Thousands of pilgrims celebrate Holy Week in Jerusalem

Israel Materials 19 March 2008 13:39 (UTC +04:00)

(dpa) - Thousands of local Christians and foreign pilgrims were due to participate in major Holy Week services in the Holy Land on Thursday despite the latest surge in violence in the Middle East.

Church data provided no indication of mass cancellations of bookings by pilgrims due to arrive in Jerusalem.

However, with the Greek Orthodox Easter falling on April 27, considerably fewer foreign visitors were seen on the streets of the city.

A highlight of the week is the traditional Stations of the Cross along the Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem on Friday, known as Good Friday, marking the path Jesus Christ is believed to have walked to his crucifixion.

On Easter Sunday, the day Christians believe Jesus Christ rose from the dead, the feast of the resurrection is to be celebrated in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. This is the place, according to religious tradition, where Jesus was buried after he was crucified.

The Latin patriarch of Jerusalem, Archbishop Michel Sabbah, is celebrating Easter this year for the last time.

On Wednesday, the head of the Catholic Church in the Holy Land turned 75, the age of retirement. He is to be succeeded by Jordanian Fuad Twal.

Jews in Israel celebrate the Purim festival at the weekend. Fearing further attacks, the Israeli military has sealed off the Palestinian Territories.

Christian Palestinians are allowed travel to Jerusalem only with a special permit.