Christian pilgrims crowded Jerusalem's cavernous Church of the Holy Sepulchre in the walled Old City for Easter processions Saturday that competed with each other in noise and pageantry but sprang from the same faith.
Jews celebrated the second day of the eight-day Passover holiday. Most stores and restaurants were closed, and many Israelis made family visits or took advantage of the good weather to go outdoors.
In Vatican City, flickering lights from thousands of candles illuminated St. Peter's Basilica as Pope John Paul II followed a procession of cardinals and bishops in ceremonies to usher in Easter.
A two-hour vigil on the eve of Christianity's holiest day culminated with a midnight Mass celebrating the Resurrection.
Thousands of people packed into the pews and aisles lit small candles as the silent procession moved through the cavernous church.
At the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Franciscan priests in brown cassocks chanted Latin hymns to organ accompaniment. Nearby, Coptic priests in gold robes prayed at their small chapel and schoolgirls wearing white lace veils and blue gowns sang.
The heads of the six Christian communities that share the 11th-Century Crusader church led separate marches to the spots where Christians believe Jesus was crucified and buried.
Church wardens struck the marble floor with heavy wooden staffs to clear a path for the processions through the crowds of pilgrims and camera-laden tourists.
Roman Catholics and Protestants came to the church for Easter Saturday observances, the time when, according to Christian doctrine, Jesus lay in his tomb before rising from the dead on Easter morning.
For the Greek Orthodox, whose church calender is a week behind, the services were in preparation for Palm Sunday, which marks Jesus' triumphant entry into Jerusalem and the start of their Holy Week.
At the St. Peter's services, John Paul carried a long white candle as he walked to the main altar under the "Baldacchino," the baroque canopy designed by the 17th-Century sculptor and architect Gian Lorenzo Bernini. The pontiff's candle was lit from a large Easter candle in an act that symbolizes the light of Christ.
The Lumen Christi (Light of Christ) was chanted three times as the pontiff reached the main altar. After the third time, the lights of the Basilica suddenly came on.
"During this night of vigil we are baptized in the death of Christ. We are buried together with him in death, so that we may walk in a new life, like Christ," John Paul said in his homily, delivered in Italian.
After the homily, John Paul baptized and confirmed 27 people from 11 countries.