(JNS.org) Thousands of Christian pilgrims attended the annual Holy Fire ceremony at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem Saturday as Egyptian churches marked a somber Easter Sunday. This year’s Easter rituals followed two Islamic State terror attacks at Egyptian Coptic Christian churches on Palm Sunday April 9, killing a combined 45 people.
The Israel Police bolstered security prior to the Holy Fire ceremony, deploying hundreds of units in Jerusalem’s Old City and at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre’s courtyard.
During the Jerusalem ceremony, which takes place annually prior to Easter Sunday, Christians light candles with “Holy Fire” from what is believed to be the tomb of Jesus Christ. A sunbeam shines through one of the church’s ceiling windows and ignites a lamp positioned in the tomb, in what is deemed to be a miracle. Moments after the Orthodox patriarch reveals the “Holy Fire,” it spreads rapidly through the church as pilgrims light each other’s candles.
In Egypt, Sunday’s Easter Mass observances were tense, and all celebratory aspects of the holiday were canceled at the behest of Coptic Christian Pope Tawadros II. Ceremonies at Coptic churches had a heavy security presence, as security barriers with a 1,300-foot radius were erected around churches and bomb squads were deployed.