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Orthodox church forsakes Via Dolorosa procession in Jerusalem - Metro US

Orthodox church forsakes Via Dolorosa procession in Jerusalem

Orthodox Christian clergymen and church officials wearing face masks stand outside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem on the day that Greek Orthodox church authorities celebrate Good Friday in Jerusalem's Old City

JERUSALEM (Reuters) – The streets of Jerusalem’s Old City were eerily quiet on Friday, after Greek Orthodox church authorities cancelled the traditional Easter procession along the Via Dolorosa amid a nationwide coronavirus lockdown.

In the morning a handful of Orthodox priests – some wearing black face masks to match their distinctive vestments – arrived at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, revered in Christian tradition as the site of Jesus’ burial, crucifixion and resurrection.

The clerics were granted entry to the building, and soon afterwards the sound of prayers could be heard from within.

But there was no subsequent procession down the Via Dolorosa, as in normal years, along the route that Christians believe Jesus passed on his way to crucifixion.

The Holy Sepulchre was closed to the public last month amid precautions against the coronavirus. But small numbers of clerics have been permitted inside to celebrate the events of Holy Week.

The Greek Orthodox and Armenian Orthodox churches share custody of the building with Roman Catholics, who celebrated Easter last week.

The Orthodox authorities are expected on Saturday to mark the ceremony of the Holy Fire, celebrating Jesus’ resurrection. But the celebration will be very different from normal years, when the Holy Sepulchre is packed with pilgrims and worshippers.

(Reporting by Stephen Farrell; Editing by Mike Collett-White)

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