Jerusalem’s Holy Sepulchre reopens after 2-month virus closure
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Jerusalem’s Holy Sepulchre reopens after 2-month virus closure

To maintain social distancing, church limits entry to 50 visitors at a time, requests worshipers not touch or kiss religious items

Three Catholic nuns wearing face masks stand in front of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem's Old City as they await its reopening opening in Jerusalem, May 24, 2020. (Emmanuel Dunand/AFP)
Three Catholic nuns wearing face masks stand in front of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem's Old City as they await its reopening opening in Jerusalem, May 24, 2020. (Emmanuel Dunand/AFP)

Jerusalem’s Church of the Holy Sepulchre 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.

The 14th Station of the Via Dolorosa inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre marks the spot where Jesus is believed to have been buried. (Shmuel Bar-Am)

Israeli authorities have gradually reopened schools, houses of worship and markets as the spread of the novel coronavirus has slowed. The Health Ministry has reported over 16,700 confirmed cases of the disease and 279 deaths. More than 14,000 have recovered.

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