Raw: Orthodox Christians Observe Easter Rite

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Flames from thousands of candles illuminated the dark hall inside Christianity's holiest shrine on Saturday as worshippers participated in the holy fire ceremony, a spiritual event in Orthodox Easter rites. (April 19)

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Jerusalem - 19 April 2014

1. Priest emerging from Edicule (small chamber marking the site of Jesus' tomb) carrying burning torches; worshippers lighting candles

2. Mid of Patriarch Theophilos III of Jerusalem being swept along by worshippers holding torch

3. Wide of church filled with worshippers holding candles

4. Tilt down from dome of church to worshippers

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Bethlehem, West Bank - 19 April 2014

5. Bishop Theofylaktos of the Church of the Nativity holding holy fire in lantern

6. Worshippers celebrating with Church of the Nativity in the background

7. Bishop Theofylaktos during procession

8. Celebrations on streets of Bethlehem

9. Scouts playing bagpipes in Bethlehem's old city

STORYLINE

Flames from thousands of candles illuminated the dark hall inside Christianity's holiest shrine on Saturday as worshippers participated in the holy fire ceremony, a spiritual event in Orthodox Easter rites.

Christians believe Jesus was crucified, buried and resurrected at the site where the Church of the Holy Sepulchre now stands in the Old City of Jerusalem.

While the source of the 'Holy Fire' is a closely guarded secret, believers say the flame appears from his tomb the day before Easter to show Jesus has not forgotten his followers.

The ritual dates back at least 1,200 years.

Top Orthodox clergymen descended into the small chamber marking the site of Jesus' tomb, emerging with their candles lit, while worshippers eagerly waited in the dim church holding bundles of unlit candles and torches.

Bells rang as worshippers rushed to ignite their own candles from the flames.

Israeli police said tens of thousands of worshippers participated in the ceremony.

The 'holy fire' was passed among worshippers outside the Church and then taken to the Church of the Nativity where Jesus is thought to have been born, in the West Bank town of Bethlehem.

Later the flame will be taken to Athens and other cities, linking many of the 200 million Orthodox worldwide.

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