- The Washington Times - Friday, April 6, 2007

JERUSALEM — Some in agony, others in ecstasy, Christians around the world marked Good Friday with prayer, processions and pleas for peace.

Thousands of pilgrims, some carrying large wooden crosses and others holding candles, wound their way through the narrow lanes of Jerusalem’s Old City in retracing the route the Bible says Jesus took on the way to his Crucifixion.

At the Vatican, Pope Benedict XVI kissed the foot of a wooden sculpture of Jesus on the cross during a ceremony at St. Peter’s Basilica. The Vatican said the 79-year-old pontiff would carry the cross at the beginning and end of the solemn evening Way of the Cross procession across Rome to the Colosseum.

On Jerusalem’s Via Dolorosa — or Way of Sorrows — visitors from the United States, India, South Korea, the Philippines, Russia and many other countries followed the traditional route of Christ’s final walk, stopping at 14 stations, each marking an event that befell Jesus on the way to His death.

The final five stations are inside the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, where tradition says Jesus was stripped, crucified and finally laid to rest before being resurrected on Easter Sunday.

In a re-enactment of those last hours, a Korean pilgrim played the role of Jesus. He was escorted by other pilgrims dressed as Roman legionnaires.

“The Lord moves us to come here,” said Bob Payton of Orange County, Calif., playing the part of a Roman soldier in his third Good Friday visit.

Israeli police said “thousands” took part.

In the Philippines, seven penitents in the northern village of San Pedro Cutud were nailed to crosses in an annual rite that is frowned upon by religious leaders but has become a major spectator attraction. Dozens of half-naked men hit their bloodied backs with bamboo sticks in an atonement rite.

In his traditional Good Friday message, Latin Patriarch Michel Sabbah, head of the Roman Catholic Church in the Holy Land, appealed to politicians of all faiths to bring an end to the region’s ongoing violence.

“What’s happening now, in our Holy Land here, is believers in God killing each other in the name of God; Jews, Muslims, Christians,” he said. “We hope, we wish, for political leaders who will have the courage to go and find the right ways for peace.”

The calendars of five major Christian faiths coincide with one another this year, something that happens only once every four years.

Clergymen of different Christian denominations, some dressed in colorful robes, filed early yesterday into the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.

In accordance with tradition, the church’s doors were unlocked by a member of a Muslim family that has held the key for centuries.

Easter this year also falls during the weeklong Jewish festival of Passover, which brings thousands of Jews into the cramped Old City to worship at the Western Wall, Judaism’s holiest site.

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