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Athens News Agency: News in English, 05-04-30

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From: The Athens News Agency at <>


  • [01] Holy Fire lit in Jerusalem amid draconian security

  • [01] Holy Fire lit in Jerusalem amid draconian security

    JERUSALEM (ANA - P. Haritos) The ceremony for the lighting of the Holy Fire - a centuries-old phenomenon regarded as a miracle by the Orthodox faith - was carried out on Easter Saturday at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem under draconian security, with one Israeli police officer for every two of the roughly 3,000 faithful that were allowed into the Church.

    As embattled Greek Patriarch Irineos I entered the 'Kouvouklion' - the chamber believed to be the tomb where Christ was buried - the police guard surrounding him came under attack from a group of Armenian pilgrims who were quickly quelled.

    Soon afterward, Irineos emerged carrying two lit torches and was lifted up by his police guard and carried around the Church to share out the Holy Fire. Orthodox Christians believe that the Holy Fire ignites spontaneously in the chamber from light coming down from heaven every year on Orthodox Easter Saturday, but only in the presence of a Greek Orthodox Patriarch.

    Earlier, the 1,500-strong force of Israeli police had sealed off all entrances and streets leading to the Church. Some 2,000-3,000 pilgrims from Greece, Russia and Cyprus were denied access to the Church for security reasons.

    The ceremony was also attended by Deputy Transport Minister Anastasios Neratzis from the Greek government.

    Violent incidents between Arab Christians and Israeli police had also occurred during the Good Friday 'Epitaphion' procession, when the Israeli police attempted to arrest the leader of a group of protestors who were handing out leaflets against Irineos and chanting slogans demanding his resignation.

    Arabs have been angered by reports that the Greek Patriarch was responsible for the long-term lease of prime pieces of property owned by the Patriarchate in Arab East Jerusalem to foreign Jewish interests, including the landmark Imperial hotel near the entrance to Jerusalem's Old City run by a Palestinian family. They are clamouring for Irineos' removal and have called for the 'Arabization' of the Jerusalem Patriarchate.

    The Patriarch has denied the allegations, blaming the Patriarchate's former financial manager - now facing charges of embezzlement - for the controversial land deals, which he says are in any case invalid since they have not been approved the Patriarchate's Holy Synod.

    (Photo supplied by EPA/Jim Hollander)

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