Thousands of Christians expected for rapturous Holy Fire ceremony

Church lights are switched off and a silence of anticipation descends on the church.

BUCHAREST, Romania | Millions of Orthodox Christians around the world have celebrated Easter in overnight services and with "holy fire" from Jerusalem, commemorating the day followers believe that Jesus was resurrected almost 2,000 years ago.

The pilgrims come to the tomb of Jesus Christ in the Holy Sepulchre Church with lamps and a package of 33 candles symbolizing the 33 years of Christ's life.

A Christian militiaman takes communion during Easter mass in Qaraqosh, Iraq, Sunday, April 16 2017.

The day after Easter Sunday is also special as it is the day families traditionally go to ceremonies and visit their deceased relatives at graveyards.

Eastern Orthodox Christians use the Julian calendar to determine the date of Easter rather than the Gregorian calendar, which means they sometimes celebrate the holiday at a different time than Western Christians.

In Egypt, Coptic Christians marked a somber Easter a week after twin bombings by the Islamic State group killed dozens of worshippers at churches in two separate cities.

Putin, himself an Orthodox Christian, attended a service led by Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and all Russian Federation at the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour here, Efe news reported.

The ceremony "symbolically re-creates the gospel events that immediately preceded and followed the moment of Christ's resurrection", Nikon said.

  • Joanne Flowers