Hundreds of Christians from around the world Friday walked along the Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem's Old City, praying and singing to retrace Christ's path to his crucifixion on Good Friday.
The procession to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, where Christians believe Christ died on the cross, was led by 20 Roman Catholic Franciscan monks in black robes tied with white rope belts.The crowd seemed smaller than in recent years. Pilgrims were seen dragging only about a half dozen large, wooden crosses along the narrow, cobbled street in the walled Old City.
Because of the 15-month Palestinian uprising against Israeli occupation in the territories, hundreds of police, border police and army soldiers were on duty, clustered in groups of six or eight on the Via Dolorosa.
No major violence was reported.
Meanwhile in the Philippines, at least 11 people were nailed to crosses and thousands of Filipinos drew blood by beating themselves on the back Friday to symbolize the suffering of Christ.
In the village of San Pedro Cutud, about 5,000 people, including foreign tourists and U.S. servicemen from nearby Clark Air Base, gathered on a rice field to watch men dressed as Roman centurions hammer nails into the palms of seven people.
The crucifixions have been an annual ritual for decades in the village 40 miles north of Manila. They have become tourist attractions in recent years, complete with stalls selling food, soft drinks, straw hats, fans and other souvenirs.
In Jerusalem, about 600 pilgrims marched behind the monks. The marchers included groups carrying Canadian and Australian flags, as well as the French fleur-de-lis. A guitarist led a group of Spaniards.
Thousands have marched in past years.
One of the largest crosses - about eight feet long - was carried by Palestinian Christians from Jerusalem and the nearby West Bank cities of Ramallah and Bethlehem. About a dozen Palestinians carried the large cross on their shoulders.
John Eberlein, 56, of Manassas, Va., said he was deeply moved to see Christians gathered together from around the world.
"You just feel you are part of a tremendous movement, this Christian religion, no matter what denomination it might be," he said. "To see all colors here, all believing the same thing you believe - it's just very exhilarating, spiritually moving."
Eberlein was with a group of 11 Catholics who came from the U.S. East Coast to walk the Via Dolorosa and attend the Mass for his resurrection on Easter Sunday.
According to Christian tradition, the Via Dolorosa, or Street of Sorrows, marks the path where Jesus, wearing a crown of thorns, was forced to carry the cross on which he was crucified. Franciscans began the tradition of walking the street in the 14th century.