Despite its much-anticipated reopening, many worshippers found themselves unable to enter Jerusalem’s famed Church of the Holy Sepulchre on Sunday due to continued coronavirus restrictions.
The church, thought by many Christians to be the location where Jesus was crucified and buried, is a popular pilgrimage site for believers and receives millions of visitors every year. It has been closed since March 25th as part of Israel's measures to combat the spread of coronavirus. However, at the weekend, leaders from the three denominations who share the site — The Greek Orthodox, Armenian and Roman Catholic churches —announced it would be flinging open its doors once again on Sunday “to the faithful, for visits and prayers."
The reality, as many experienced, was very different. According to the Times of Israel, crowds of worshippers were denied entry, with the 50-person admission limit being taken up by clerics from various churches. Officials at the Holy Sepulchre later said that the reopening had to be postponed, with another noting that they had decided to wait for a further easing of lockdown restrictions in order to allow 100 people into the church at a time.
No solid date on such a reopening has been officially announced.
Over 16,700 cases of COVID-19 have been recorded in Israel, with almost 300 deaths. On Wednesday, religious sites were authorised to reopen on the condition that admissions are limited to 50 people at a time.