- The Washington Times - Monday, April 24, 2000

Thousands of pilgrims thronged the alleyways of Jerusalem's Old City on their way to Easter Mass yesterday at the holiest site in Christianity.

Tourists crammed into the cavernous Church of the Holy Sepulcher, revered as the site of Jesus' burial and resurrection, where they swabbed themselves with holy water.

Muslim caretakers, the hereditary key holders of the church, harried the visitors from altar to altar with cries in German of "schnell, schnell" [quick, quick].

Jerusalem's Latin Patriarch Michel Sabbah called for an end to interreligious conflict in his Easter homily in the church.

But pilgrims said his message was drowned out by chimes from a service of another of the six rival Christian sects that maintains a tense coexistence in the massive shrine.

Easter Sunday, the most important day on the Christian calendar, coincides this year with Passover, the Jewish holiday marking the biblical exodus from Egypt.

Wary of the crowds flooding the ancient walled city, Israeli security forces observed from the rooftops as Easter processions wound through the flagstoned lanes.

Elsewhere, the day was marked in a large green army tent in Bosnia, where U.S. troops had services at sunrise.

Britain's Christian leaders urged their flocks to keep faith alive in an increasingly secular world.

"Somehow, in the midst of the world in which all of you live with all its temptations and distractions you have to defend the citadel of your heart," the new archbishop of Westminster, Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, said at Westminster Cathedral.

Violence interrupted the holiday weekend in northern Kosovo, where mortars slammed into Gorazdevac one of the last all-Serbian villages in the Serbian province. No one was injured in the attack, which the independent Beta news agency said was fired from the nearby village of Grabovac, which is populated mainly by ethnic Albanians.

The 75,000 Catholic Albanians who live in Kosovo are an isolated community among the 2 million in the province neither Muslim as most ethnic Albanians are, nor part of the Eastern Orthodox church to which Serbs belong.

At the Vatican, Pope John Paul II capped a grueling Holy Week schedule by offering Easter wishes for peace in 61 languages and called on the world to end racism and xenophobia.

So many Holy Year pilgrims and tourists and Romans turned out for the pope's late-morning Mass in St. Peter's Square that by the time he delivered his Easter message at noon, the crowd, numbering close to 150,000, was spilling over into the boulevard leading to the Vatican.

Sounding tired toward the end of the two-hour appearance, Pope John Paul expressed hope that the sense of life associated with Easter may "overturn the hardness of our hearts" and "impel individuals and states to full respect" for human rights.

Praying for the success of peace efforts around the world, including in Africa and Latin America, the pope cited "persistent tensions in the Middle East, vast areas of Asia, and some parts of Europe."

"Help the nations to overcome old and new rivalries, by rejecting attitudes of racism and xenophobia," the pope prayed.

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