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  • Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem
Worshippers thronging the Church of the Holy Sepulchre during the Christian Orthodox Holy Fire cerem
Worshippers thronging the Church of the Holy Sepulchre during the Christian Orthodox Holy Fire ceremony in Jerusalem last year. Photo by Reuters
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Tens of dozens of Christian worshipers yesterday took part in the Holy Fire ceremony at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem.

The Holy Fire ceremony, described by Orthodox Christians as a miracle that occurs every year at this church on the day before Orthodox Easter, has been marked for the past 1,200 years at least and is considered the longest-attested annual miracle in the Christian world.

About 1,000 police officers safeguarded the site as the worshipers of various Orthodox Christian denominations packed into Christianity’s most sacred shrine, revered as the site where Jesus was crucified, buried and resurrected. In the ceremony, a flame believed to be miraculously lit emanates from the tomb.

The rite, which in previous years was a source of numerous disputes and mass brawls among the denominations in charge of the church − especially the Greek Orthodox and Armenian − begins with a procession led by the Greek Orthodox and Armenian patriarchs.

The procession circumambulated the church three times, then the Greek Orthodox patriarch, adorned with a golden crown encrusted with jewels and religious icons, entered The Edicule, the small chamber at the core of the church marking the site of Jesus’ tomb.

Armenian clergymen entered as well, and the door was sealed, guarded by clergymen and an Israeli policeman.

The door opened to reveal candles lit with the holy fire − said to be miraculously lit and interpreted as a message to the faithful from the heavens.

The light was passed on to the representatives of the various churches and the thousands of worshipers waiting outside and taken in festive processions nationwide and in special planes all over the world.

The flame was taken past an Israeli military barrier into Bethlehem’s Church of the Nativity, the traditional site of Jesus’ birthplace.

Palestinian Prime Minister Salaam Fayyad attended another holy fire ceremony in Ramallah.

In the Gaza Strip, about 50 Christian worshippers attended a mass in one of Gaza’s two churches.

Yesterday’s ceremony was broadcast live to Russia, Greece and many other countries.