Orthodox Christians from around the world have celebrated Easter in overnight services and with holy fire from Jerusalem, commemorating Jesus Christ’s resurrection.
This year’s Orthodox Easter falls on April 8, seven days after Catholic Easter, due to the difference in calendars followed by both churches.
The day is known as Pascha and is the most important celebration from all the Christian holidays, celebrating Jesus’ resurrection. The day of Easter was declared to be the first day of the full moon following the Spring Equinox that occurs on March 21. The Eastern and Western Churches still ended up with a difference in celebration due to the use of the Gregorian calendar at first and later the Julian calendar.
Some years, both Orthodox and Catholic Churches will celebrate Easter on the same day.
On the Great and Holy Saturday, Orthodox clerics from around the world transport the holy flame from Jerusalem by plane and it’s then flown to other churches around their countries. According to tradition, the holy flame appears each year at the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem and is taken to other Orthodox countries.
The celebration of Pascha is the most important celebration for the Orthodox Churches. It is the center of the Christian faith, the belief that Jesus Christ, after his death on the cross in Jerusalem, was resurrected.
Thousands of Christian Orthodox pilgrims have crowded the Old City of Jerusalem for the Holy Fire ceremony.
The Orthodox Easter Holy Fire is considered a miracle occurring every year on Holy Saturday, the day preceding Orthodox Easter Sunday.
The crowding forced police to close the Christian Quarter and tempers flared as Christian pilgrims and local Christians could not get through to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
The Church of the Holy Sepulchre is believed to be built on the site of Jesus’ crucifixion, burial and resurrection.
Israeli police deployed hundreds of officers in to secure the old city as Christian worshipers from the Orthodox denominations eagerly anticipated the ceremony.
Those who arrived early watched as the key-holder to the sacred site arrived to unlock the church doors. Due to the church being divided by different denominations, the keys are held by a Muslim man whose family has been considered neutral by all parties for several generations.
Each year at 14:00 local time (12:00GMT), on the day before Orthodox Easter Sunday, the ceremony marks a miracle.
After a procession around the church, all of the lights inside are extinguished before the entrance of the Greek Orthodox Patriarch who carries a handful of candles. When the Patriarch emerges, the candles are believed to be lit by a miraculous flame which is then used to light the candles of the congregation.