- Title: WEST BANK: Holy Fire arrives at the birthplace of Jesus in Bethlehem
- Date: 19th April 2009
- Summary: GIRL STANDING BEHIND FENCE
- Embargoed: 4th May 2009 13:00
- Topics: Religion
- Reuters ID: LVA8VQ77EXNERH3FTS2KK8TVIT3
- Story Text: Thousands of Christian pilgrims on Saturday (April 18) waited in anticipation in the west bank town of Bethlehem, for the arrival of the Holy Fire from the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem.
Traditionally, an olive lamp lit by the "Holy Fire" at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem is transferred soon after the ceremony to Bethlehem, where Christians believe Jesus was born.
Worshippers waiting for the fire in Bethlehem on Saturday held a street celebration in which youths played drums. Other worshippers lit each other's candles and waved swords in the air, as a clergyman carrying the lamp which was brought from Jerusalem walked around the streets of the town. The fire was later brought to the Church of the Nativity.
The Holy Fire is considered a miracle occurring every year on Holy Saturday, the day preceding Orthodox Easter Sunday.
Traditionally, the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem enters the small tomb structure of Jesus at the Holy Sepulchre Church. At exactly 2pm local time, a sun beam is believed to shine through the window in the ceiling of the church, lighting a lamp placed in the tomb. The Patriarch then lights a few candles with the holy fire, and passes them on to worshippers inside the church.
The fire is then distributed to the worshippers who are waiting outside the church. In past centuries, worshippers were expected to bring the flame back to their villages around Russia and Eastern Europe.
The Easter holiday culminates on Easter Sunday when Christians believe Jesus rises from the dead, three days after being crucified.
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