May 4, 2024

A First Look at the Holy Light (Holy Fire) of Jerusalem 2024

Today in Jerusalem the Holy Light, known in the West as Holy Fire, once again descended into the Tomb of Christ as Patriarch Theophilos of Jerusalem knelt in prayer within the Holy Sepulchre. This ceremony has taken place just about every year for hundreds of years on Holy Saturday, shortly after 2:30pm. With 33 candles in each hand he distributed the Holy Light to the many present. Following the Holy Light ceremony, the flame is taken by plane to other Orthodox communities in countries such as Greece, Russia, Ukraine, Serbia, Bulgaria, Georgia and Romania. In Greece the Holy Light is usually received with the welcome of a Head of State.

Given the security situation in the Middle East, and following consultations with Israeli police, clergy in charge of the 2024 event ruled that no more than 4200 people could be in attendance in the church and its courtyard for the Holy Light ritual. According to the Russian news agency Sputnik, the number of visitors this year is much lower than in previous years due to the escalation of the conflict in Gaza and the resulting logistical problems. Many airlines, in fact, continue to avoid flying to Israel.

The Bulgarian Orthodox Church, citing security concerns, earlier decided that it would not send its customary delegation to fetch the flame. Bulgarian news agency BTA reported on May 4 that a Bulgarian Orthodox Church delegation would receive the flame from a Romanian Orthodox Church delegation, to take it to the Bulgarian city of Rousse on the Danube.


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