For the past two months Maria Ramos yearned to pray in a church, but the closure of all houses of worship in the Holy Land, aimed at stopping the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19), meant that she and all other people of faith needed to pray at home.
She finally got her wish on Pentecost Sunday.
On that day, May 31, Ramos, a caregiver from the Philippines who works in Israel, returned to the newly opened Church of the Holy Sepulcher to pray at the site of Jesus’ burial and resurrection.
“Being in Israel, the Holy Land, has given me opportunities to deepen my faith,” Ramos said as she emerged from the ancient stone church, located in Jerusalem’s Old City. “This is a special church, and I feel very close to Our Lord when I come here.”
The reopening of churches in both Israel and the Palestinian-ruled West Bank in late May “was gratifying,” said Armenian Orthodox Father Artak Tadevosyan, who manages the Armenian section of the Holy Sepulcher. The sacred site is administratively divided among several Christian denominations.
Even during the height of the pandemic here, a small number of priests continued to celebrate religious services inside the churches, but the public was prohibited.
Many churches livestreamed their services, allowing the faithful to take part, albeit remotely. As restrictions were gradually lifted, priests began to hold outdoor Masses.
“Now up to 50 people are permitted to enter parts of the church, but not Jesus’ tomb,” Father Tadevosyan noted, as he watched worshippers pray outside the Edicule, the structure that covers Jesus’ tomb.
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