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Celebrating Good Friday in Jerusalem amid Gaza War

Good Friday is mainly commemorated on Via Dolorosa, Jesus' path of suffering

The Good Friday procession in the morning, at the Via Dolorosa at Jerusalem Old-city, March 29, 2024. (Photo: Screenshot)

Amid the tumult of the current war in the Gaza Strip, a poignant and timeless tradition unfolds in the ancient streets of Jerusalem's Old City: The humble observance of Good Friday by Christian Catholic pilgrims and clergy members continues even during the tragic year of 2024.

Thousands solemnly traverse the Via Dolorosa towards the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, some carrying wooden crosses, amid echoing chants and hymns, commemorating the sufferings of Christ, in a ritual aligned with the Catholic calendar.

The Via Dolorosa, a religious route in the Old City, marks Jesus' path to the cross after judgment by Pontius Pilate. While the authenticity of the historical location is debated, its significance as an ancient tradition remains unquestionable.

According to the Catholic calendar, the Holy Week began this year on Palm Sunday, March 24 and ends on Easter Sunday, March 31, with Good Friday being celebrated on Friday, March 29. The Orthodox Church, using the old Julian calendar, observes Holy Friday (Good Friday) on May 3, with Easter falling on Sunday, May 5.

This year, the Christian Good Friday and the Jewish holiday of Passover (Pesach) do not coincide, as they sometimes do, because of the "transitional year" or "Ibbur Shana" inserted in the Jewish calendar to keep it consistent.

In Jewish law, this is a leap year, which means a second month of Adar is added. The Hebrew calendar is based on the moon cycle and the transition of the year is designed to adapt it to the seasons that depend on the cycle of the sun. The Jewish Passover this year will fall on April 22 – 29.

The Good Friday pilgrimage serves as a tangible embodiment of devotion and remembrance. The significance of this day is magnified against the backdrop of conflict, as prayers are offered for peace amidst the ongoing war between Israel and the Hamas terrorist organization.

Along the route of the Via Dolorosa, pilgrims pause at each of the 14 stations, engaging in rituals that commemorate the events of Christ's first sufferings and His crucifixion.

The Good Friday procession in the morning, at the Via Dolorosa at Jerusalem Old-city, March 29, 2024. (Photo: Screenshot)

From the somber confines of the Church of the Flagellation, where Jesus faced condemnation, to the poignant encounters with Mary, Veronica, and the Cyrenean, the pilgrimage unfolds as a poignant tableau of faith and resilience.

Finally, the journey culminates at the revered Church of the Holy Sepulchre, where Catholics and Orthodox Christians (and even some Protestants) believe Jesus was entombed before his resurrection on Easter Sunday.

Here, in the hallowed precincts of the ancient basilica, the Way of the Cross concludes with a benediction bestowed by the Custos of the Holy Land, a poignant reminder of the enduring significance of this pilgrimage.

At dusk, a special liturgy in the basilica reenacts Jesus' funeral procession, preserving ancient burial customs — this is a solemn prelude to the joyful Easter Vigil and the promise of resurrection.

The celebration of Good Friday in Jerusalem is scheduled as follows:

7:15 a.m. The Passion of Christ on Calvary in the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre
12:15 p.m. The procession "Way of the Cross" at the Via Dolorosa with the Franciscan Fathers
8:10 p.m. The "Funeral Procession" in the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre

Finally, there is a Good Friday meditative service (in English) at the Garden Tomb for Protestants and other reformed churches and denominations.

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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