The site of the crucifixion and resurrection will be closed for Easter and beyond.
For the first time in nearly seven centuries, the church built on the site of the Crucifixion and Resurrection of Jesus Christ has been closed to the public.
The Church of the Holy Sepulcher, containing the tomb of Christ, will likely see extremely quiet celebrations of Easter, with a limited number of clergy conducting private liturgies.
Authorities originally closed the church March 25 for a week in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, but the closure has been extended indefinitely.
“The initial understanding is that this order is valid for one week, although nobody knows how long this crisis will take,” Wadie Abu Nassar, a spokesperson for the Assembly of Catholic Ordinaries of the Holy Land, told Reuters.
A statement issued March 26 by Brother Francesco Patton, Custos of the Holy Land, His Beatitude Theophilus III, Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem and His Excellency Nourhan Manugian, Armenian Patriarch of Jerusalem, said, “Following the evolution of the situation in the Holy Land, we, the leaders of the three communities to whom Divine Providence has entrusted the grace and honor of making the praise of God resound in the Basilica of the Holy Sepulcher and of the Resurrection, wish to communicate that the celebrations of the three Greek-Orthodox, Latin and Armenian communities will continue regularly.”
But for security reasons and to avoid the risk of contagion from Covid-19, the religious leaders said that “the number of participants in individual celebrations will be limited to a few people, and the Basilica will be accessible only during liturgies.”
”We want to assure that within the Basilica itself the prayer of the three communities will continue regularly and will be intensified to ask the Heavenly Father for the cessation of the pandemic, the healing of the sick, the protection of health care personnel, the wisdom for Pastors and Rulers and the eternal Salvation of those who have died,” said the statement. “We raise this prayer at the very place where through the sacrifice of his life on Calvary and the Resurrection from the tomb on the third day, the only begotten and loved Son of God overcame evil, sin and death.”
Easter will be celebrated on April 12 by the Western Churches and a week later by the Eastern Churches following the Julian calendar.
The last time the Church of the Holy Sepulcher was closed to the public for an extended period was in 1349 during an outbreak of plague in Jerusalem.