A few priests celebrated Holy Saturday at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher this year, following severe restriction on gatherings and movement due to the coronavirus outbreak.
This is the first time the church is closed on Easter since Black Death in 1349, after it was closed on March 25, over fears of the coronavirus pandemic.
In normal times, the church, located in Jerusalem’s Old City, attracts thousands of local and international pilgrims and tourists, who come to visit the Edicule of the Tomb.
The Holy Sepulcher is believed to be the site of Jesus Christ’s crucifixion and burial.
“The days we are experiencing are marked by a great void: void of rituals, void of faces, void of presences, void of contacts,” said the Apostolic Administrator of the Latin Patriarchate in Jerusalem, Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa in his Easter Vigil homily at the Holy Sepulcher.
In recent years, Israel imposed severe restrictions for Palestinian Christians coming from Gaza and other parts of the West Bank.
Israeli occupation authorities often refused to issue travel permits for hundreds of Palestinian pilgrims from Gaza who planned to visit holy sites in Jerusalem and Bethlehem during Easter.