efe-epaBy Joan Mas Autonell Jerusalem

Christians from across the world packed the narrow streets of Jerusalem's Old City on Friday for the traditional procession down the Via Dolorosa, the path Jesus walked to the site of his crucifixion.

Israeli police were out in force as pilgrims made the Stations of the Cross on a bright sunny day in the Holy City.

The procession, led by Franciscan monks, made its way in solemn silence from the Ecce Homo Arch to the Church of the Flagellation, where Pontius Pilate condemned Jesus Christ to death, according to the Gospels.

At each of the stations, three of the Franciscans explained the significance of the spot in English, Spanish and Italian.

Monks provided a continual recitation of prayers in Latin as they shepherded the pilgrims toward the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, the most sacred place in Christianity, where Jesus was crucified.

Prayers in Arabic from members of Jerusalem's Palestinian Christian community also rang out.

"We Christians are a minority in this country, but during these days, with the arrival of pilgrims from everywhere, we are enveloped (by the Christian visitors) us and we feel that Christianity is something global," Marianna Musleh, a 25-year-old resident of the Old City's Christian quarter, told EFE.

For many of the faithful, the Via Crucis represents a spiritual journey, a singular event among the various Easter festivities.

"Spiritually, I felt a lot of things that I cannot express, it has been the biggest experience of my life," Socorro Morales, who traveled from Mexico to take part in the procession, told EFE while resting in front of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.

For others, such as Monsignor Domenico d'Ambrosio, archbishop of the Italian city of Lecce, taking part in the Via Crucis in Jerusalem for the 26th time, the Good Friday walk serves to reinforce his faith.

"Coming here means to see life itself once more and to remember what Jesus Christ suffered and did for us," the prelate said, adding that the experience "becomes a kind of trial" for people wanting "to follow the road of Jesus."

Once at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, the Franciscans withdrew, leaving the pilgrims to reflect on their experience.

In a city like Jerusalem, sacred to Christians, Jews and Muslims Islam, Easter often overlaps with other religious observances.

This year, Good Friday coincides with the start of Passover, the holiday commemorating the departure of Jews from Egypt after being liberated from slavery. And the Via Crucis procession began before the Friday prayers at mosques in the Holy City.

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