Although the Israeli authorities banned religious celebrations and gatherings to curb the spread of the Coronavirus, they allowed the ceremony of the 'Sacred Fire' to be held in the Holy Sepulchre, on the eve of the Orthodox Easter.
Usually, thousands of Orthodox Christians gather in the Basilica built in the place where, according to tradition, Jesus Christ was buried and rose from the dead. In the pre-Easter rite: the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem, makes his way through the crowd, enters the Edicule, the newly restored structure inside the Sanctuary, and prays alone. He holds a lamp lit all year round, which is put out before the rite, and then comes out with the flame of the lamp rekindled, according to tradition by the 'Sacred Fire'. The faithful then rush to light their candles.
This year, only ten people were allowed to attend the ritual in the Holy Sepulchre: Greek Orthodox Patriarch Theophilos, the Armenian Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem Nuhran Manougian, Anba Antonius, Coptic Orthodox bishop of Jerusalem, and Archbishop Gabriel Dahho, Syrian Orthodox Patriarchal Vicar for the Holy City, together with four assistants and two Israeli policemen.
After the ceremony, the flames drawn from the 'Sacred Fire' was brought with the escort of Israeli security forces to Ben Gurion airport to be placed onto 10 planes bound for Russia, Ukraine, Greece, Georgia, Cyprus, Romania, Moldova, Belarus, Poland, Kazakhstan.
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