UN Mideast peace envoy denied entry to Holy Fire ceremony
Published Saturday 19/04/2014 (updated) 21/04/2014 10:03
Christian worshipers hold up candles lit from the 'Holy Fire' as
thousands gather for the 'Holy Fire' ceremony at the Church of
the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem's Old City, on April 19, 2014
(AFP Gali Tibbon)
JERUSALEM (Ma'an) -- Israeli police on Saturday prevented UN Middle East peace envoy Robert Serry from celebrating the Holy Fire ceremony in Jerusalem, a statement from his office said.
UN Middle East peace envoy Robert Serry said in a statement that he and other diplomats visited the Easter procession to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre at the invitation of Jerusalem's Palestinian Christian community.
The procession was stopped at a security checkpoint before the church "despite earlier assurances ... of unhindered access," Serry said.
"The Israeli police refused to allow such entry claiming they had orders to that effect.
"A precarious standoff ensued, ending in an angry crowd pushing their way through."
Israeli police blocked the entrances of all Old City roads leading to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre during the ceremony, refusing entry to journalists, international Christian pilgrims, and tourists. Swarms of Christians at Jaffa Gate began singing hymns upon being refused entry.
Serry said he was dismayed that a peaceful procession was disrupted by "unacceptable behavior from the Israeli security authorities."
"Once again I call on all parties to respect the right of religious freedom, granting access to holy sites for worshipers of all faiths and refraining from provocations not least during the religious holidays," he added.
An Israeli police spokesman did not answer calls seeking comment.
Believers hold that a divine fire from heaven ignites a flame in the church, built on the site where Christians say Jesus Christ was crucified, buried and resurrected.
The flame is then passed between worshipers, candle to candle.
The crowd roared as the Holy Fire was lit, in an ancient annual rite dating to the 4th century AD to symbolize the resurrection of Christ on Easter Sunday.
AFP contributed to this report.