Orthodox Easter 2024: ‘Holy Fire’ appears at Holy Sepulchre church in Jerusalem

In an annual ceremony revered by Orthodox Christians as a key part of Easter celebrations, the “Holy Fire” appeared in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem on May 4.

Orthodox Christians believe that the “Holy Fire” appears at Easter in the church as a result of a Divine intervention, and regard the event as miraculous.

Given the security situation in the Middle East, and following consultations with Israeli police, clergy in charge of the 2024 event ruled that no more than 4200 people could be in attendance in the church and its courtyard for the “Holy Fire” ritual.

The Bulgarian Orthodox Church, citing security concerns, earlier decided that it would not send its customary delegation to fetch the flame.

Bulgarian news agency BTA reported on May 4 that a Bulgarian Orthodox Church delegation would receive the flame from a Romanian Orthodox Church delegation, to take it Bulgaria’s city of Rousse on the Danube.

In Eastern Orthodox Christian tradition, the flame is distributed from churches at about midnight, with the public then taking it to their homes.

Occurrences of miraculous flames are recorded in texts dating back to the fourth century CE, though the “Holy Fire” ritual became formalised later.

Eastern Orthodox Christianity is alone in recognising the validity of the “Holy Fire”.

The event is not recognised by the Roman Catholic Church, with a Pope several centuries ago having dismissed it as a fraud and thus heretical. The world’s second-largest group of Christians, Protestants, also do not recognise it as legitimate.

In 2018, Greek journalist Dimitris Alikakos, after travelling to Jerusalem to investigate the ritual and interview clergy involved in it, published a book titled Redemption—About the Holy Light, and posted a video, quoting senior clergy saying that the flame was the result of human intervention.

This led to the Jerusalem Patriarchate and clergy lodging civil and criminal court action against Alikakos, and court action against Google to have his video removed from YouTube.

In 2022, a court dismissed the application against Google, and on March 29 2024, the court in Athens dismissed all the lawsuits against Alikakos.

(Screenshots via Bulgarian National Television’s live broadcast of the event)

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