Iraq celebrates first Easter 'Holy Fire'
Christian Iraqis have widely shared the hashtag "the dream has come true" on social media.
For the first time, thousands of Iraqis celebrated the arrival of the "Holy Fire" brought from Christianity's holiest site in Al-Quds to mark Orthodox Easter.
Worshippers gathered Saturday night to greet the arrival of the flame at the Syriac Christian Orthodox Mar Matta monastery of Saint Matthew, about 28 kilometers from the city of Mosul in northern Iraq.
On his account, Bishop Timathos Moussa Shamani, of the Mar Matta monastery, said, as quoted by AFP, "It is a message of peace and love for all... a message of resurrection for this bruised country so that it can regain its strength, its security, and its peace."
The flame was carried in a special lantern from the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in occupied Al-Quds, where Christian tradition holds that Jesus was crucified, buried, and resurrected.
"For the first time in the history of Iraq we managed, through coordination with the Iraqi central government, to transport the holy fire (to Iraq) through Amman," said Boulos Matta Ephrem, a priest at the Mart Shmoni Syriac Orthodox church in Bashiqa.
According to believers, the fire descends from heaven on the eve of Easter and is a symbol of Christ's Resurrection.
Christian Iraqis widely shared the hashtag "the dream has come true" on social media.
From Palestine to Iraq
It is worth mentioning that the Israeli occupation forces prevented Christian pilgrims from freely reaching the Church of the Holy Sepulchre on Saturday, adding that one of the priests was brutally attacked by the IOF while on his way to the church.
The occupation forces were heavily deployed in occupied Al-Quds and imposed restrictions on Christians heading to the church.
Earlier, the occupation forces closed the New Gate leading to the Old City of occupied Al-Quds, through which the pilgrims enter to celebrate the Holy Saturday.
Despite strict Israeli restrictions, thousands celebrated the outpouring of the Holy Fire inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
The Greek Orthodox Archbishop of Sebastia in Al-Quds, Archbishop Atallah Hanna, told Al Mayadeen that the occupation forces entered the Church of the Holy Sepulchre with their weapons.
The Archbishop revealed that the occupation turned the Old City into a military barracks, explaining that the occupation forces are blatantly encroaching on the sanctity of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in an unprecedented targeting of the Christian presence in the city.
Archbishop of Sebastia for the Greek Orthodox in occupied Al-Quds, Theodosius Atallah Hanna, told #AlMayadeen: There are fears over seizing Christian endowments [by Israeli occupation forces]. https://t.co/SEIA0OovQ7— Al Mayadeen English (@MayadeenEnglish) April 21, 2022
Archbishop Hanna further pointed out that the occupation forces' decision to enter the Church with their weapons is a clear provocation of Christians and worshippers, who were attacked by the occupation in an unprecedented scene during the most important Christian holidays.
Palestinian and foreign Christians alike were assaulted by Israeli occupation forces while they were on their way to the church of the holy sepulchre in the holy city of Jerusalem Al-Quds.#FreePalestine ✌🏽🇵🇸 pic.twitter.com/QTaYhcp9C2— Yousef Alhelou (@YousefAlhelou) April 23, 2022
He addressed the world saying, "This is a cry to the Christian churches in the East and the whole world to give heeds to the Christian presence in occupied Al-Quds."