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August 17, 2017

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Pilgrims flock to city of Jerusalem for Good Friday processions

Thousands of Christian pilgrims filled the narrow streets of Jerusalem's Old City on Good Friday, retracing the route that Jesus followed on his way to the crucifixion.

The pilgrims packed the Via Dolorosa, the winding path through the walled Old City where tradition says Jesus walked as he carried his cross on the path to his death. The processions all ended at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, which marks the site of the crucifixion.

Along the way, worshippers from India, the Philippines, Germany, Spain, Indonesia, France, Switzerland, Italy, Egypt and many other countries paused at each of the 14 stations of the cross to pray and sing. Some pilgrims kneeled down to worship in the streets.

Israeli Arab Christians were among the largest groups following the route on the Via Dolorosa.

"Good Friday in Jerusalem has turned out to be more special than I had thought. It's more complex and richer than I expected," said Patty Lund, of Oakland, California.

Each of the 14 stations along the procession route represents an episode of Christ's final walk as told in the gospels. The final five stations of the cross are all inside the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, where many Christian sects believe Jesus was stripped, crucified, and finally laid to rest.

While waiting to enter the Holy Sepulcher, pilgrims were patient and orderly, despite unseasonably hot temperatures, dense crowds and a delay in opening the doors for the Latin Patriarch's procession.

A group of Roman Catholics from Spain passed the time by playing the guitar and singing religious songs outside the church doors. Other groups waiting in the church's large courtyard sang, too, in a variety of languages.

Once they got inside the church, many pilgrims were moved to tears. Weeping worshippers knelt to touch and kiss the Stone of Unction, where tradition says Christ was taken down from the cross.

"It's so lovely. This experience touches me deeply," said Mariam Suleiman Riyad, who came from Egypt with her husband and a large church group.

Kyla Snyder, a non-denominational Christian from Seattle, Washington, said that spending Good Friday in the Holy City was "an amazing experience."

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