The streets of the Old City are alive with hymn singing and perfumed with incense and jasmine as Christians flock to churches to mark the crucifixion of Christ.The police have closed main streets to vehicles, making way for tens of thousands of pedestrians.
A burst from a machinegun fired into the air at a wedding or a funeral rattles no one, although last week these streets were empty, shops were closed and families hid at home.
Mortars - Insurgents - Ghouta - Struck - Churches
Mortars shot by insurgents in eastern Ghouta struck churches, schools and houses. Now the armed groups observe a ceasefire and negotiate surrender or evacuation to a distant province. “Christians who left the country will start coming back,” says Joseph, who guides my colleague Karin and me to seven churches traditionally visited on Holy Thursday night.
Syria is caught between two Easters. The Catholic one this Sunday, the Orthodox one next Sunday. Christians make the rounds of each other’s churches in a popular celebration of Jesus’s life, death and resurrection. Ecumenism is at work in Damascus, the cradle of Christianity.
Maronite - Catholic - Church - St - Anthony
We begin at the Maronite Catholic Church of St Anthony as the priest prepares to wash the feet of several men standing beside him before the altar to commemorate Jesus’s bathing the feet of his disciples before the Last Supper. The church slowly fills while the choir sings sweetly from the gallery.
Many Altars :
St - Francis - Latin - Catholic - Church
At St Francis Latin Catholic Church, 11 elderly men, five in wheelchairs and six on chairs, sit facing each other at the front of the congregation while a priest with a fine, sonorous voice sings the Mass. Incense hangs in the air. Red carnations and white lilies decorate the church’s many altars.
The next house of God, the fourth we have on our programme, is the massive Zeitoun Greek Catholic (Melkite) church. Spotlights set behind...
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