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Easter Saturday marked in Holy Land

Thousands of Christians have gathered near Jerusalem's Church of the Holy Sepulchre for Easter Saturday and marched in processions brimming with tradition, taking turns to pray in the site where they believe Jesus was executed and buried.

Easter Saturday is a day of reflection and waiting for many Christians, who believe Jesus was crucified on Friday and rose from the dead on Sunday.

"This day is very important for us. It's the waiting for the great celebration of the resurrection," said Father Ibrahim Shomali, a Palestinian Christian priest from the nearby town of Beit Jala.

Thousands marched through Jerusalem's cobbled old city.

They were led by Palestinian guards in black costumes richly embroidered with gold, topped with scarlet rimless hats. They rhythmically pounded their staffs on the cobble-stone ground, providing a beat for believers to march. The guards, "Qawwasin" in Arabic or "Marksmen" in English, are a leftover vestige from when Ottoman Muslims ruled the Holy Land, Father Shomali said.

According to a series of traditions established over hundreds of years of accommodation between different Christian sects and the region's ever-changing rulers, the Qawwasin march at the head of the Easter Saturday procession. Their job was formerly to protect Jerusalem's Catholic patriarch. Now, it is a ceremonial role.

They were followed by Franciscan monks in plain brown robes, clerics in black garb, and then ordinary believers.

The believers congregated in the Holy Sepulchre for prayer.

"This is the place where Jesus is in his tomb, this is the place, a magnet of the world," said worshipper Jim Carnie of New York. "The power of this place, to be here, it has to be experienced," he said.

The Holy Sepulchre is a complex of cave-like rooms, winding corridors, a soaring domed roof, and ornate decorations alongside broken furniture.

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