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Hundreds Retrace Christ’s Steps : Procession in Jerusalem Appears Smaller This Year

From Associated Press

Hundreds of Christians from around the world today walked along the Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem’s Old City, praying and singing as they retraced 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 half a dozen large, wooden crosses along the narrow, cobbled street in the walled Old City.

A group of Californians performed a pageant along the route.

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Ralph Beltran of Los Angeles, portraying Christ, was dressed in a white robe and wore a crown of thorns. He carried a large wooden cross and companions dressed as Roman guards ritually flogged him.

Astonished Onlookers

Joanne Petranela of Brea, Calif., dressed as Mary Magdalene, ran among astonished onlookers shouting “It’s all my fault.”

A German pilgrim from Munich, who identified himself only as Helmut, termed it “a disgrace to Christianity.”

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According to Christian tradition, the Via Dolorosa, or Street of Sorrows, marks the path where Jesus was forced to carry the cross on which he was crucified. Franciscans began the tradition of walking the street in the 14th Century.

Because of the 15-month Palestinian uprising against Israeli occupation in the territories, hundreds of police, border guards and army soldiers were on duty, clustered in groups of six or eight on the Via Dolorosa.

No major violence was reported.

Israeli troops moved into the Old City and Arab east Jerusalem, then Jordanian territory, in the 1967 Middle East war.

11 Nailed to Crosses

In the Philippines, at least 11 people were nailed to crosses and thousands of Filipinos drew blood by beating themselves on the back today to symbolize the suffering of Christ.

The crucifixions have been an annual ritual for decades in San Pedro Cutud, 40 miles north of Manila, and this year drew 5,000 people. The rituals have become tourist attractions in recent years, complete with stalls selling food, soft drinks, straw hats, fans and other souvenirs.

Pope John Paul II marked Good Friday by hearing the confessions of six Italians and a West German religion teacher in the Vatican. The Roman Catholic leader 10 years ago began hearing confessions in St. Peter’s Basilica on Good Friday to emphasize the importance of the sacrament.

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In Jerusalem, 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.

Deeply Moved

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 East Coast to walk the Via Dolorosa and attend the Mass for Christ’s resurrection on Easter Sunday.


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