Christian Pilgrims Flock to Jerusalem for Jubilee Easter
Thousands of Christian pilgrims thronged the narrow streets of the Old City of Jerusalem on Holy Thursday briefly mingling with Jews visiting the Wailing Wall on the first day of Passover.
Christians from Italy, Poland, Romania and as far away as the Philippines trod the streets of the ancient city on the day that the New Testament says Jesus Christ took his last supper with his disciples on the eve of his crucifixion.
Easter in the Holy Land is special this year because it is the Jubilee Year 2000 and follows the visit here by Pope John Paul II in March.
But many pilgrims were disappointed when they were turned away from Christianity's holiest site, the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, where Jesus was said to have been crucified and buried before rising on Easter Sunday.
A guard at the church said it was only open for priests coming to pray or for silent devotion.
To the right side of the building, Ethiopian Christians were holding a service in their tiny chapel while priests shooed away tourists trying to take photographs.
Seven wooden crosses had been hung on a wall for Good Friday processions when pilgrims carry a cross on their backs along the Via Dolorosa, as the New Testament said Jesus did on his way to his crucifixion.
The Latin, or Roman Catholic patriarch of Jerusalem, Monsignor Michel Sabbah, took part earlier in the day in an ancient ceremony at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.
He washed a dozen priests' feet, in commemoration of Jesus's washing his disciples' feet at the Last Supper.
During the ceremony, Sabbah also blessed the oil that will be used for the confirmation of Christian children and for extreme unction, administered to the dying.
He then emerged as part of a procession, following Franciscans and half a dozen guards dressed in black outfits dating back to the Ottoman period, while blue-uniformed Israeli police looked on discreetly.
Holy Thursday ceremonies were set to continue on Mount Zion, where the Last Supper was said to have taken place. Later in the day, Christians will commemorate the beginning of the Passion in the Gethsemane church where the New Testament says Jesus was arrested.
Jews began Wednesday night their approximately weeklong celebration of Passover, which marks the ancient Hebrews' exodus from Egypt -- OCCUPIED JERUSALEM (AFP).
© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)