Christians worldwide will celebrate Palm Sunday, starting the most holy week in the Christian liturgical calendar which commemorates Christ’s last days on earth and his subsequent resurrection on Easter Sunday.
The upcoming week will include commemoration ceremonies on Good Friday, in remembrance of Christ’s crucifixion, and Ash Wednesday, which marks the last three days to Easter Sunday.
Pope Benedict led a procession, this Sunday, through St. Peter’s Square, lined with palm and olive trees symbolic of Christ’s triumphant entrance into Jerusalem some 2,000 years ago.
"With this liturgical assembly we enter into Holy Week, to live the Passion, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ," Benedict stated during the opening prayer for the Palm Sunday Mass, according to AP.
Benedict added that though the cross on which Christ was crucified on signified his martyrdom, "…Palm Sunday tells us that ... it is the cross that is the true tree of life,” stating that the cross a represented peace, poverty and universality within the church.
In Syria, Christian youths carried fronds and candles outside Sayydet Demashek Church in downtown Damascus – where, according to biblical scriptures, Apostle Paul converted his faith to Christ.
160 miles south, 20,000 pilgrims participated in a procession in Jerusalem escorted by well-armed Israeli police on horseback and motorcycle. The Israeli army said that it would allow 34,000 Palestinian Christians passage from the West Bank to join the festivities in the coming Easter weekend.
The Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, and top Roman Catholic official in the city, Michel Sabbah, led the procession which included local youth scouts and nuns and priests.
This marks the second time where thousands have flocked to the Holy Land for Palm Sunday, after several years of Israeli-Palestinian violence discouraged many from making the pilgrimage.