Jerusalem’s Holy Sepulcher fails to reopen as planned

Two months after it was closed as part of anti-coronavirus precautions, Jerusalem’s Church of the Holy Sepulcher remains closed to the public on Sunday, despite an earlier official announcement of its reopening.

Millions of pilgrims visit the church each year, but it was closed on March 25, ahead of the Easter holidays, as part of measures imposed to combat the spread of the COVID-19 disease.

Leaders of the three denominations that share the site had said in a joint statement on Saturday that it would reopen on May 24 “to the faithful for visits and prayers.”

The Greek Orthodox, Armenian, and Roman Catholic denominations share custody of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.

They said that entry would be restricted to a maximum of 50 people at a time, “to those who have no fever or symptoms of infection and are wearing suitable face coverings.”

But on Sunday morning, worshipers are denied entry, to the disappointment of several seen by AFP journalists at the scene.

Religious officials say the reopening was postponed, but did not give a new date, hinting that there were difficulties in counting numbers in order to maintain social distancing.

One official tells AFP that 50 clerics from various churches had came to pray, leaving no room for the public.

Another official says it had been deemed preferable to wait for a further easing of Israeli restrictions, so that 100 people could enter at a time.


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