Orthodox Easter celebrated in near-empty Jerusalem

Orthodox Easter celebrated in near-empty Jerusalem

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Orthodox Easter celebrations around the world looked starkly different than in years past, particularly in a locked-down Jerusalem.

The Holy Fire ceremony marking Jesus’ resurrection was held Saturday in a near-empty Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

Bells tolled as the Greek Orthodox Patriarch Theophilos III emerged from the crypt where Christians believe Jesus was buried, but only clergy and a few Israeli police officers were on hand.

Tens of thousands of worshippers from Armenia, Greece, Ukraine, Bulgaria, Romania, Russia and elsewhere usually flock to the Holy Land to witness the miracle,  but the coronavirus pandemic prevented the usual pilgrimmage.


According to Israeli media, Theophilos carried the flame out of the church to Ben Gurion airport near Tel Aviv, where it was be e flown to 10 countries.

The ceremony was broadcast live from inside the crypt in the ancient church, regarded by most Christians to be the site of Jesus’ crucifixion, burial and resurrection.

Israeli police have locked down the Old City in Jerusalem, but allowed the church to open for Saturday’s 2 p.m. celebration.

While Theophilos wore a mask, some of the participants in the did not, nor were social distancing protocols observed during the ceremony.

Jerusalem closed its holy sites at the end of March in an effort to prevent the further spread of COVID-19. The measure was implemented ahead of the Easter holidays, celebrated a week apart by the Catholic and Orthodox Christian churches.

Israel has taken some extreme measures to fight the spread of the virus, even going so far as to track cellphones to see who is breaking lockdown rules.


As of Sunday morning, Israel had 13,362 confirmed cases and 171 deaths.

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