Church: Israel limiting rights of ‘Holy Fire’ worshippers

by | Apr 12, 2023 | Religion

JERUSALEM (AP) — The Greek Orthodox Church on Wednesday accused Israeli police of infringing on the freedom of worshippers with “heavy-handed” restrictions on how many pilgrims can attend the “Holy Fire” ceremony amid soaring tensions.Israeli police said the limits are needed for safety during Saturday’s celebration at the ancient Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the 12th-century holy site where Jesus is believed to have been crucified, buried and resurrected.
Saturday’s “Holy Fire” celebration comes during an unusual spate of violence in the Old City, touched off by an Israeli police raid on Jerusalem’s most sensitive holy site, the compound that’s home to the Al-Aqsa Mosque. The tensions spiraled into a regional confrontation between Israel and Hamas, and were punctuated Friday when two British-Israeli sisters and their mother were killed after their car came under fire near a Jewish settlement in the occupied West Bank. The mother succumbed to her wounds on Monday.
Israel, which imposed similar restrictions on the “Holy Fire” event last year, says it wants to prevent another disaster after a crowd stampede at a packed Jewish holy site left 45 people dead. Christian leaders say there’s no need to alter a ceremony that has been held for centuries.
Eastern Orthodox Christians believe that on the Saturday before Easter, a miraculous flame appears inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. The Greek patriarch enters the Holy Edicule, a chamber built on the traditional site of Jesus’ tomb, and emerges with two lit candles. He passes the flame among thousands of people holding candles, gradually illuminating the …

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