Israeli authorities have decided to close the Church of the Holy Sepulchre for a week as a precaution against the coronavirus pandemic. The closure does not affect the divine services, which will be performed according to the normal schedule, in the absence of the faithful.
The church was closed shortly after 5:00 PM yesterday, as Israel announced new measures that include the closure of all churches, synagogues, and mosques, reports the Times of Israel, cited by Orthochristian.
Citizens are allowed to pray only on the street with the participation of no more than 10 people with a distance of at least 6 ft. between them.
The restrictions announced by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also prohibit leaving one’s home except to buy essentials, such as food and medicine, or to seek medical treatment. Violating the 7-day restrictions will constitute a criminal offense, his said in a statement.
Covid-19 pandemic also affects pilgrimages to the Holy Land.
“Currently the pilgrimages to the holy places are suspended, and those scheduled have been postponed or canceled. Most likely pilgrimages will resume when the conditions will allow it”, Archimandrite Teofil Anastasoaie, representative of the Romanian Patriarchate to the Holy Lands and superior of the Romanian Settlements in Jerusalem, Jericho and Jordan, said.
Regarding the Romanian Settlement in Jericho, which usually offers accommodation for pilgrims, Archim. Teofil said that it is currently closed, as hygiene and disinfection work, at the recommendation of the Ministry of Tourism of Palestine.
“We keep the prayer candle lit”
The Romanian settlements in the Holy Land respect the rules imposed by the authorities, and the liturgical program is carried out normally, but without the presence of pilgrims.
“We continue to keep the prayer candle lit. We are in communion of prayer with the whole of Christendom”, archim. Teofil Anăstăsoaie said.
The divine services from the Church of the Romanian Settlement in Jerusalem are broadcast online on the official Facebook page.
As of last night, Israel has 2,369 cases of the coronavirus, with 5 deaths, while Palestinian authorities have recorded 60 cases, with the first death occurring yesterday.
Photo courtesy of Ahmad G. /AFP