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Pilgrims Mark Palm Sunday

From Times Wire Services

Thousands of Christians singing hymns in a dozen languages waved olive branches as they descended Jerusalem’s Mount of Olives in the annual Palm Sunday procession.

Christian Arab children carried palm branches threaded with red-and-pink ribbons and carnations. Worshipers included French nuns, Franciscan monks, United Nations staff and Palestinian scouts clad in brightly colored uniforms.

Under the blazing sun they sang and called for peace as they followed Jesus’ footsteps from the Mount of Olives past the Garden of Gethsemane, where tradition says he prayed before his betrayal by Judas and arrest by Roman soldiers. The march ended in Jerusalem’s walled Old City.

Other pilgrims gathered at the 800-year-old Church of the Holy Sepulcher, built on the site where Christians believe Jesus was crucified, buried and resurrected. Some worshipers wept when they knelt before the site where Jesus’ body was washed after it was taken from the cross.

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“You feel this is the ground where Jesus was--this is it,” said Sister Winifred Wheeler of Grand Rapids, Mich. “You experience the passion more vividly.”

At the Vatican, Pope John Paul II blessed palms and olive branches and dedicated his thoughts to youths preparing for a huge rally in Rome in 2000. He led a nearly three-hour Mass and ceremony in St. Peter’s Square.

Tens of thousands of faithful waved palm fronds and branches from olive trees when the pope, aboard an open-topped popemobile, moved through the crowd.


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