Orthodox Christians celebrated Easter in Jerusalem on Sunday, but only a handful of priests were able to hold mass in the otherwise empty Church of the Holy Sepulchre due to restrictions to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus. The church has been closed to the public since late March, halfway through the penitential season of Lent. Eastern Orthodox Christianity marks the day that Jesus is believed to have been resurrected after his crucifixion a week later than Catholic and Protestant Christianity celebrate the holy day. The church contains, according to traditions dating back to at least the fourth century, the sites of the crucifixion and Jesus’ tomb, and in most years, it would be filled with pilgrims and tourists, but Israeli travel restrictions have prevented their arrival and limited the gathering of worshippers. Israel reports more than 13,362 COVID-19 cases and 171 deaths. The Palestinian Authority, which also claims east Jerusalem as the capital of a future state, has seen 431 confirmed coronavirus infections and two deaths. “The world today became united, east and west, to combat this pandemic. What I wish is that after we overcome this pandemic, we should unite to defend human morals and values,” said Greek Orthodox Archbishop Atallah Hanna after the traditional Washing of the Feet ceremony on Thursday. On Saturday, a small group of clerics celebrated the Holy Fire ceremony , which normally draws huge crowds.
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