JERUSALEM: Hundreds of Christians streamed through the cobblestone alleyways of Jerusalem’s Old City on Friday, hoisting wooden crosses and chanting prayers to mark the Crucifixion of Jesus.
Throngs of pilgrims walked a traditional Good Friday procession that retraces Jesus’ steps along the Via Dolorosa, Latin for the “Way of Suffering.” They followed his 14 stations, saying a prayer at each and ending at the ancient Holy Sepulcher church.
Along the route, Franciscan friars in brown robes chanted prayers in Latin and explained the different stations to crowds through a megaphone. Leonard Mary, a priest from Irondale, Ala., was dressed as Jesus wearing a crown of thorns. He was flanked by men posing as Roman soldiers and had fake blood dripping down his chest as he lugged a giant cross down the street.
“The most perfect love that was ever seen in the world was when Jesus died for us. He showed us the perfection of love,” the priest said.
Good Friday events began with a morning service at the cavernous Holy Sepulcher, which was built on the place where tradition holds that Jesus was crucified, briefly entombed and resurrected. Clergy dressed in colorful robes entered through the church’s large wooden doors as worshippers prayed in the church courtyard.
Christians believe Jesus was crucified on Good Friday and resurrected on Easter Sunday.
Roman Catholic and Protestant congregations that observe the new, Gregorian calendar, are marking holy week. Orthodox Christians, who follow the old, Julian calendar, will mark Good Friday in May.
Less than 2 percent of the population of Israel and the Palestinian territories is Christian, mostly split between Catholicism and Orthodox streams of Christianity. Christians in the West Bank wanting to attend services in Jerusalem must obtain permission from Israeli authorities.
Israel’s Tourism Ministry said it expects some 150,000 visitors in Israel during Easter week and the Jewish festival of Passover.
Elsewhere, devotees in villages in the northern Philippines took part in a bloody annual ritual during which some Filipinos more painstakingly re-enact the Crucifixion.
The crucified devotees spent several minutes nailed to crosses in Pampanga province while thousands of tourists watched and took photos of the spectacle, which the church discourages. Earlier in the day, hooded male penitents trudged through the province’s villages under the blazing sun while flagellating their bleeding backs with makeshift whips. Others carried wooden crosses to dramatize Christ’s sacrifice.
Devotees undergo the hardships in the belief that such extreme sacrifices are a way to atone for their sins, attain miracle cures for illnesses or give thanks to God.