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Palestinian Christians barred from Easter pilgrimage

Palestinian Christians in the West Bank accused Israel of sabotaging their annual Easter pilgrimage to the site of Christ's crucifixion.

This year, Easter coincided with the most important Jewish holiday of Passover, and Israel enforced a complete closure of the Palestinian Territories, fearing a terrorist attack.

For thousands of Christians from nearby Bethlehem, it meant another year barred from praying at Jerusalem's Church of the Holy Sepulchre, which is built on the site where it's believed Christ died and then rose again.

Bethlehem Mayor, Hanna Nasser, who has presided over a city re-occupied by the Israeli army, then encircled by it, told the ABC's Mark Willacy: "It is depressing because Bethlehem has been closed now for 60 days, complete closure, 60 days. And not a single citizen is able to get out or visit if he doesn't get a permission. And although some of them, although they had permissions, yesterday and before yesterday they turned them, they turned them from the military checkpoints."

Lutheran pastor Mitri Raheb said Israeli authorities again knocked back his application for permits to travel to Jerusalem for Easter.

"We applied now 45 days ago for around 100 people from our members and so far we haven't got yet any permits," he said.

Palestinian Christians barred from Easter pilgrimage (ABC Radio AM 12/4/04)

Franciscans accuse Israel of 'calculated' visa delays (The Tablet 10/4/04)

13 Apr 2004