Israeli police restrict Christian participation in Holy Fire ritual in Jerusalem – Middle East Monitor

Israeli security forces on Saturday attacked Orthodox Christians who wanted to attend the Holy Fire ceremony at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in the occupied East Jerusalem, Anadolu reports.

Orthodox Christians gathered in the Christian Quarters of Jerusalem’s Old City carrying candles, wooden crosses and symbolic swords in their hands, according to an Anadolu reporter.

Worshippers, including priests, marched to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre which is considered among the holy places of Christianity, to participate in the Holy Fire ritual, as they hymned and chanted religious slogans.

After Christian worshippers’ arrival to the Church, Christian pilgrims waited for the “Holy Fire” and lit their candles, the reporter said.

However, some Christians who wanted to attend the ceremony, which symbolizes Jesus’s resurrection, were prevented by Israeli police in the narrow streets leading to the church to attend the ritual.

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Israeli police set up iron barricades to prevent the passage of Christian worshippers, including many elderly and women. Only some clergy and a small number of Orthodox Christians were allowed to proceed to the church.

As Anadolu captured the moments of some Christians, including women, while crossing the Israeli barricades with difficulty to attend the service, Israeli forces pounded up some of them.

A Christian clergyman was among those beaten by Israeli police, while another person fainted.

Israeli police said in a statement that thousands of people were in the Old City of Jerusalem to attend the Holy Fire ritual, and that police forces were working to provide a safe environment for those who attend the service.

The statement did not mention any police violence against Christian worshippers.

On April 12, the Status Quo Committee of the Churches in Jerusalem warned in a statement of Israeli police restrictions on participation in the Holy Fire ceremony.

The Palestinian Authority, for its part, condemned the Israeli restrictions as an arrogant and dangerous challenge to the divine religions.

Considered one of the holy places of Christianity, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is located in occupied East Jerusalem. It is of great importance to Christians who believe that Jesus Christ was crucified there and then ascended to heaven.

The keys of the Church, which has been the subject of contention between different sects of Christianity throughout history, are held by two Palestinian Muslim families.

Ottoman Sultan Abdulmecid had handed over the key to the church to two Muslim families of Jerusalem to put an end to the fight between the Christians. Today, the doors of churches are still opened and closed by these Muslim families.

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