Orthodox Christian Palestinians celebrated Easter this weekend

PNN/Bethlehem

Orthodox Christian Palestinians marked Holy Saturday across the occupied West Bank on Saturday, with thousands of pilgrims attending the “Holy Fire” ceremony in occupied East Jerusalem’s Old City on the eve of Orthodox Easter.

The ceremony, celebrated by Palestinian Christians across the Holy Land, takes place each year on “Holy Saturday,” or “Saturday of Light” in Arabic, marking the day following Good Friday, when Christians believe Jesus Christ was crucified in Jerusalem, and the day before Easter, which marks his resurrection from the grave.
Palestinian Christians as well as Eastern Orthodox Christians from around the world believe that on the Saturday between these two holidays, a divine fire from heaven appears above his tomb in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas made a statement following the celebrations:
“This year we celebrate Easter as a religious and national holiday, believing in the righteousness of our cause and full of hope that Palestinians will become free of the oppression and injustice of military occupation.

We are indeed looking forward to a life full of dignity, freedom and security on our homeland and near our holy places.Here in Jerusalem, in spite of the occupation policies and the attempts to judaize the Holy City, pillage its holy places, alter its Christian and Islamic character and isolate it from the rest of the occupied territory through closure and military checkpoints, your steadfastness and presence in the Holy city of Jerusalem and your holy celebrations with millions of Christians around the world remind us of the profound meaning of the life of Jesus Christ as He walked through the Via Dolorosa and defeated death with resurrection and a new life.

We have no doubt that the day will come when we Palestinians will overcome death with life and injustice with freedom and dignity.

On this solemn and dignified occasion, we would like to extend our gratitude to His Beatitude Patriarch Theophilos III and the Holy Synod for their noble consent to form the Joint Council as an initial step toward the reunification of the Orthodox family.

Consequently, we confirm our support to the Higher Presidential Committee for Church Affairs and the Orthodox Central Council in this respect so that the Church of Jerusalem and its followers shall remain lofty and resistant to all attempts aiming to weaken and jeopardize the presence of Christian Church in the Holy Land.

We value dearly the Churches Conference in Atlanta in the US and we would like to express our sincere hope that its recommendations will see the light.

The Churches Conference frames a platform from which we can make the voice of the living stones in the Holy Land audible to the rest of the world for the interest of our national cause. For our part, we have been keen to consummate the agreement with the Vatican in order to enhance the Christian presence in the Holy Land.

In addition, our hearts are still waltzing with devout joy for having two sisters from Palestine canonized.

This year we are celebrating Easter and the Resurrection of Jesus Christ while it has become clear to all that the future of Christians in the Middle East fraught with danger.

The roots of their existence in the Holy Land that goes back to more than two thousand years is threatened, and likewise are the foundations of love, coexistence and cooperation among people of different faiths. Indeed the principles of faith, religious diversity freedom of worship and belief are in danger of extinction.

On this Holy Day which is venerated by Christian and Moslem Palestinians, we reaffirm our duty and responsibility to defend the Christian presence in Palestine and the Middle East.

We will not be negligent or reluctant in ensuring that the Middle East and our people remain united and abounding in diversity.

Nothing will remain on this land except that which will be good to its peoples irrespective of their beliefs and convictions.

We wish to celebrate Easter together and the sun has shot its arrows of freedom on the Holy City of Jerusalem. Holy feasts are religious and national occasions which we are proud to celebrate with delight and joy.

Once again we congratulate you all on this holy occasion and we wish our Greek Orthodox, Armenian, Syriac, Coptic and all communities of believers a happy and blessed Easter.”

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