JERUSALEM, April 3 (UPI) -- A procession by thousands through Jerusalem's Old City highlighted Good Friday observances commemorating the crucifixion and death of Jesus Christ.
Many carried large wooden crosses as they traveled the Via Dolorosa, the path believed to have been walked by Jesus on his way to his death. They prayed and sang hymns as they participated in the Stations of the Cross, a Christian ritual involving a stop at 14 locations along the way, which narrate the Gospels' version of Jesus' last day before the crucifixion. The procession ended at the city's Church of the Holy Sepulcher, regarded as the site of Golgotha, where Jesus was crucified and buried. Christian belief says he was resurrected three days later.
There were no incidents reported. For the past 10 years on Good Friday, Christians faced restrictions by Israeli authorities in accessing religious sites, and clashes between Palestinian Christians and Israeli troops took place. Participation in the procession required a permit issued by Israel police.
"Since 2005, Israel has closed the Old City of Jerusalem for us," said Hind Khoury, formerly the Palestinian minister of Jerusalem affairs. "We arrive to celebrate Palm Sunday and Holy Friday only to find the access doors closed and many Israeli military checkpoints along the way."
Jamal Khader of the Latin Patriarchate Seminary said, "Israeli authorities give some permits to Christians during religious holidays. But at the same time, the access to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher is restricted and during Pesach [Passover] there are even more restrictions. Permits are a means of control, and this is a violation of our freedom of worship."
Good Friday coincides with the start of the Jewish observance of Passover this year.