Sunday, April 23, 2006

Holy Fire and Tempers Flare at Orthodox Pascha


Security was tight as visitors from around the world flocked to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, where tradition says Jesus was crucified and buried.

Tempers flared as thousands of worshippers waited to pass through security barricades into Jerusalem's Old City. Some priests and pilgrims shoved and punched police. Inside the church, people scuffled with each other and with officers as they waited for the ceremony to begin.

The Greek and Armenian Orthodox patriarchs in the Holy Land descended into the church's underground tomb to bring out the flame. Worshippers clutching bundles of unlit tapers and torches waited in the darkened church for the church leaders to emerge.

When they reappeared with lighted torches, church bells pealed. Worshippers cheered, shrieked "Christ, Christ," and ululated. The flames were passed around to the thousands of faithful and light and smoke filled the cavernous church within seconds.