How Christians Marked #GoodFriday In Jerusalem Today

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With Agency Report– Christians marked Good Friday this year amid signs the coronavirus crisis may be winding down in Israel, with religious sites open to limited numbers of faithful but none of the mass pilgrimages usually seen in the Holy Week leading up to Easter.

Last year, Jerusalem was under a strict lockdown, with sacred rites observed by small groups of priests, often behind closed doors. It was a stark departure from past years, when tens of thousands of pilgrims would descend on the city’s holy sites.

This year, Franciscan friars in brown robes led hundreds of worshippers down the Via Dolorosa, retracing what tradition holds were Jesus’ final steps, while reciting prayers through loudspeakers at the Stations of the Cross.

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Christian worshippers carry a wooden cross along the Via Dolorosa (Way of Suffering) in Jerusalem’s Old City during the Good Friday procession on April 2, 2021. (Photo by Emmanuel DUNAND / AFP)

 

Another group carried a wooden cross along the route through the Old City, singing hymns and pausing to offer prayers.

Israel has launched one of the world’s most successful vaccination campaigns, allowing it to reopen restaurants, hotels and religious sites.

 

Nuns watch Holy Thursday mass led by the Latin Patriarch at the Holy Sepulchre in the Old City of Jerusalem, April 1, 2021. (AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo)

But air travel is still limited by quarantine and other restrictions, keeping away the foreign pilgrims who usually throng Jerusalem during the holy week.

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Israeli authorities said up to 5,000 Christian Palestinians from the West Bank would be permitted to enter for Easter celebrations.

Abunassar said he was not aware of any large tour groups from the West Bank planning to enter, as in years past, likely reflecting concerns about the virus.

Nuns pose for a selfie as they mark Palm Sunday on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem, March 28, 2021. (AP Photo/ Mahmoud Illean)

Abunassar said most Christians in the region celebrate Holy Week in their local parishes.

The Good Friday services in the Old City are only expected to draw a small number of people, mainly priests and foreigners who reside in Israel.

However, hundreds gathered in Jerusalem and Bethlehem earlier in the week to mark Palm Sunday, although the gatherings were still relatively small and abided by social distancing measures.

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The Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem was open to the public and welcomed Roman Catholics to honor the day.

Later, worshipers marched in procession from the Mount of Olives to the Old City, following Jesus’ traditional route from 2,000 years ago.

Additionally, Christians gathered for Mass in the Church of the Nativity, in the West Bank city of Bethlehem, traditionally believed to be the birthplace of Jesus.

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