Pilgrims Celebrate Good Friday in the Holy Land

Christian Orthodox pilgrims hold crosses during Good Friday processions in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, traditionally believed to be the site of the burial of Christ, in Jerusalem's Old City, Friday, April 2, 2010. (Photo: Associated Press)

Pilgrims from around the world took place in Good Friday ceremonies in the Holy Land today, carrying their own wooden crosses down the path believed to be the same one Jesus' took to Golgotha more than 2000 years ago.

Thousands of Christians, both Protestant and Orthodox, gathered in Jerusalem to walk the Via Dolorosa – the "Way of Suffering" – to historic ritual sites including the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, where Christ was believed to have been buried and resurrected.

"I just feel that I'm part of the spiritual world here, closer to that, by walking on these streets here in Jerusalem and visiting the sites here," Spiro Polaris of Baltimore, Maryland told the Associated Press.

"It's very exciting to put the physical reality with what you've read all these years," Sally Stanfield of Washington, D.C. said. "And being here, you feel this is a prayed up place and it's very holy."

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Meanwhile, Catholics in Poland observed Good Friday alongside the fifth anniversary of the death of their beloved former Pope John Paul II.

The very first Polish Pope, John Paul headed the Catholic Church from 1978 to 2005 as the third longest reigning pontiff, and is considered one of the most influential world leaders of his era.

John Paul's prominence has been magnified by the acceleration of his path to sainthood, which bypassed the traditional five year waiting period through an order from current Pope Benedict XVI.

This year, however, even John Paul's reputation has been hit with questions over his leadership regarding sex abuse among Catholic clergy.

The former Pope is now in question over neglecting to defrock former Archbishop of Vienna, Cardinal Hans Groer, who has been accused of abusing nearly 2,000 victims during his tenure as a clergy member.

A call on John Paul to investigate Groer was reportedly initiated by current Pope Benedict XVI, previously known as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, although his plea was apparently halted by opposing senior clergy members.

Benedict himself has also befallen accusations of neglecting to halt abusive clergy members during his tenure as Archbishop of Munich. Some have even called for Benedict's resignation.

The current head of the church in Germany, Archbishop Robert Zollitsch of Freiburg issued a statement today admitting the church's mistakes and saying that clergy members had a "wrongly intended desire to protect the church's reputation."

"Wounds were opened that can hardly be healed any more. Today the Church is conscious that, in a different societal situation, it did not do enough to help the victims due to disappointment over the painful failings of the perpetrators and due to falsely understood concerns about the Church's image," Zollitsch said, adding that he hoped Good Friday would be a "new start for the Church that is so urgently needed."

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