Palm Sunday around the world

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Christians around the world are marking Palm Sunday by waving fronds, attending church services and visiting sites in the Holy Land at the start of the Holy Week that ends with Easter.

Crowds of faithful gathered in Jerusalem’s Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the traditional site of Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection. Many waved the fronds to symbolize how worshippers greeted Jesus over 2,000 years ago as he triumphantly returned to Jerusalem.

Later in the day, hundreds of Christian pilgrims are expected to march behind a white donkey from the Mount of Olives to the holy city, retracing Jesus’ traditional route into Jerusalem.

Worshippers also gathered in the Nativity Church in Bethlehem, the traditional site of Jesus’ birth, clutching olive branches and bouquets as they sung in praise.

At the Vatican, Pope Francis marked Palm Sunday in St. Peter’s Square. In keeping with the simple tone of his 2-year-old papacy, Francis leaned on a plain wooden pastoral staff instead of a traditionally more ornate one as he stood under a red canopy on the basilica steps.

In Nigeria, the faithful attended church a day after millions voted in a presidential election too close to call, many praying for peace after violence marred its 2011 poll.

Christians also prayed in religiously diverse Lebanon as well, some of those refugees who have fled Syria’s four-year conflict. — Associated Press