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Christians around the world mark Palm Sunday

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 worshipers 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.

Worshipers 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.

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Pope Francis holds the Palm Sunday Mass at St. Peter's Square on March 29, 2015 in Vatican City, Vatican. Franco Origlia, Getty Images

Francis and other prelates at the Mass wore bright red vestments to recall Jesus' death by crucifixion. Tens of thousands of faithful held olive branches during Mass under a brilliantly blue sky.

Tourists and pilgrims have poured into Rome, and many will follow the pope's Way of the Cross service at the Colosseum Friday.

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.

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Syriac Catholic Iraqis, who fled the violence in their country, parade with crosses and olive branches as they gather to celebrate Palm Sunday that marks the triumphant return of Jesus Christ to Jerusalem when a cheering crowd greeted him waving palm leaves the week before his death on March 29, 2015 in Sadd el Baouchriyeh, East of the capital Beirut. ANWAR AMRO/AFP/Getty Images
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