Christian Pilgrims Observe Good Friday In Jerusalem

Friday, April 6th 2007, 6:50 am

By: News On 6

JERUSALEM (AP) _ Christian pilgrims from around the world filled the narrow cobblestone streets of Jerusalem's Old City on Good Friday, some carrying large wooden crosses as they followed the route Jesus took on the way to his crucifixion.

Pilgrims from the United States, India, South Korea, the Philippines, Russia and other countries retraced Jesus' walk as he carried his cross through Jerusalem on the day of his death. Many held candles and sang hymns in languages including English, Latin and Hindi.

``I can imagine Jesus walking here with the cross,'' said Alex Kim, 18, of Seoul, South Korea.

Dragan Petrodic, wearing a Serbian flag on his shoulder, said, ``I'm here to see and kiss all the places where God has been.''

Nearby, an Arab vendor shouting in Russian hawked small crosses for $10 apiece.

One group, from California and South Korea, re-enacted Jesus' last hours before his crucifixion. A South Korean pilgrim played the role of Jesus, covered with blood, wearing a crown of thorns and burdened by a cross. He was escorted by others dressed as Roman centurions.

``The Lord moves us to come here,'' said one of the centurions, Bob Payton of Orange County, California, who added that this was his third Good Friday visit.

Clergymen in colorful robes, representing different Catholic and Orthodox denominations, filed early Friday into the ancient Church of the Holy Sepulcher, where many believe Jesus was crucified, died and was buried. In an annual tradition, the church's doors were unlocked by a member of the Muslim family that has held the key for centuries.

Inside the church, pilgrims pressed their heads to the long, smooth stone where the faithful believe Jesus' body was washed after being removed from the cross.

The calendars of five major Christian sects coincide this year, a convergence that happens only once every four years, and crowds were expected to be larger than usual.

Hundreds of police were deployed around the Old City to maintain order, said police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld.

There are 14 stations along the route, known as the Via Dolorosa, or Way of Sorrows, each marking an event that befell Jesus on his final walk. The final five stations are inside the church.

The proprietor of a pizzeria near the Via Dolorosa's fourth station, giving his name only as Nasser, said he remembered bigger crowds before Israeli-Palestinian violence erupted in 2000. While Asian and African pilgrims were well-represented, he said, western Europeans had yet to return in large numbers.

``Many tourists are still scared. They're still keeping away,'' he said.

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