JERUSALEM (AP) — Jerusalem’s Church of the Holy Sepulcher reopened to visitors on Sunday after a two-month closure due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The church, situated in Jerusalem’s Old City, is the site where many Christians believe Jesus was crucified, entombed, and resurrected. The Christian authorities managing the site closed it to visitors in March to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, but clerics maintained prayers inside the shuttered church throughout its closure.
On Sunday, church authorities limited entrance to 50 people at a time, and required that those entering the cavernous site maintain social distance and avoid touching any of the church’s stones, icons or other religious items. A typical day before the virus outbreak would bring thousands of faithful who kissed or placed their hands along the church’s surfaces.
As priests from the various Christian sects entered the church, a handful of faithful waited outside for the basilica’s church to open for the public.
Israeli authorities have gradually reopened schools, houses of worship and markets as the spread of the novel coronavirus has slowed. Israel’s Health Ministry has reported over 16,700 confirmed cases of the disease and 279 deaths. More than 14,000 have recovered.
Image: An Orthodox clergyman holds holy fire to transfer to predominantly Orthodox countries from the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, traditionally believed by many Christians to be the site of the crucifixion and burial of Jesus Christ, in Jerusalem’s old city after the traditional Holy Fire ceremony was called off amid coronavirus, Saturday, April 18, 2020. A few clergymen on Saturday marked the Holy Fire ceremony as the coronavirus pandemic prevented thousands of Orthodox Christians from participating in one of their most ancient and mysterious rituals at the Jerusalem church marking the site of Jesus’ tomb.(AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)