Orthodox Easter celebrated across Greece and the world

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About 300 million Orthodox Christians around the world celebrated Easter on Sunday, a week later than other Christians.

At the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem on Saturday, thousands gathered to witness the ceremony of the Holy Fire, an ancient, mysterious ritual that has sparked tensions this year with the Israeli police.

In the annual ceremony, a flame — kindled in some miraculous way in the heart of Jesus’ tomb — filters out of the church and lights the candles of fervent believers in Greek Orthodox communities near and far. 

Christian pilgrims hold candles during the Holy Fire ceremony. Photo: AP Photo / Mahmoud Illean.

This year, Israel capped the ritual — normally an experience of being squeezed among suffocating crowds — to just 1,800 people, leaving many people disappointed.

Elsewhere, in Greece, Christians celebrated across the country with islands such as Corfu reigniting Easter traditions such as the ‘botides’ and Philharmonic band.

Main opposition SYRIZA leader, Alexis Tsipras, participated in the ceremonies in a village on Corfu, where he is spending Easter with his family.

Greece’s Prime Minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, also wished Happy Easter to Orthodox Greeks around the world in a post on social media. Mitsotakis attended services on the Greek island of Tinos during the holiday.

Greece’s President, Katerina Sakellaropoulou, attended the mass ushering in Easter Sunday at the Metropolitan Cathedral of Athens, led by Archbishop of Athens and All Greece Ieronymos, which was followed by an impressive fireworks display symbolising Christ’s victory over death.

On Easter Sunday, Sakellaropoulou visited the Presidential Guard and exchanged Easter wishes with Evzones guards and personnel. 

Meanwhile, the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, who is based in Istanbul, fulfilled a 10-year promise to mark Easter on the Turkish island of Gokceada where he was born.

In candle-lit masses held over three days, the Ecumenical Patriarch presided over services that brought together about 200 visitors and locals.

Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I conducts Mass at the Church of St. George on the island of Gokceada, Turkey. Photo: AP Photo / Khalil Hamra.

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