As Orthodox Christians were preparing for their most important annual religious holiday, a centuries old tradition has taken place in Jerusalem. The lighting of the Holy Fire has attracted pilgrims from around the globe and celebrates Jesus' resurrection.
The ceremony, which is held at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in the Christian Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem, saw thousands of worshipers take part in a custom, which is over 1,200 years old. The pilgrims were mainly from Eastern Europe, but there were also a number of Christian Arabs, who attended.
Those gathered inside the Church, waited for the Holy Fire to be lit and hurried to light the candles they were carrying, as the flame emerged from the holy building.
Upon being lit, the flame will now start a journey to Orthodox Christian nations around the globe. It will be flown to countries such as Greece and Russia on specially chartered planes.
The Orthodox Easter, which due to the use of the Gregorian calendar, comes a week later than when Easter is celebrated in the West. The religious festival is marked by worshipers eating Easter cakes, or kuliches, as well as exchanging painted eggs.
In Russia, the main Orthodox Easter celebration takes place in the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour. Russian President Vladimir Putin is attending the event. Another 5,000 worshipers were also expected to pack into the Cathedral in downtown Moscow.
The head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill, leads the Easter service.
This year, Orthodox Easter falls on the same day as the Cosmonauts Day – April 12. Therefore, the Patriarch will speak with Russian members of the International Space Station, to congratulate them with their holiday, as well as wishing them a happy Easter.
Christianity is the world's largest religion with over 2.2 billion followers. Its three largest branches are the Catholic Church, the Protestant Church and the Orthodox Church. Catholics and Protestants both celebrated Easter on April 5.