In previous years, hundreds of pilgrims from every corner of the Christian world are crammed into the historic Church which was built on the spot where Christians believe Jesus was entombed and resurrected.
By historic tradition, the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem leaves a procession of clergy from other Christian denominations through the crowds, while he, alone, walks into a small room– called the edicule– a chamber built on the exact spot where Christians believe Christ was buried.
After a brief prayer service inside, the Patriarch emerges with a brightly lit flame that is passed to the hundreds of onlookers in the Church.
Lanterns are lit and the flame is distributed to dozens of nations throughout the world, in time for their midnight Resurrection services.
Chaos ensues inside the church as faithful jockey to light their candle.
Christians believe this is a miracle that takes place every year as the flame mysteriously lights the Patriarch’s candle. The ceremony has been talking place in Jerusalem for over 1,200 years.
But in the year of the Coronavirus pandemic, the ceremony was quite different.
A small group of Christian clergy were allowed into the church to celebrate the Holy Fire ritual.
The government of Israel has imposted strict restrictions on gatherings but face special dispensation to the Greek Orthodox Church to host the ceremony with a limited number of participants.
Israel has reported more than 13,000 coronavirus infections and 158 deaths.
Special arrangements were also made with church leaders from various countries to allow the holy flame to be flown abroad to other Orthodox communities.
Aircraft arrived in Israel and returned home empty with limited delegations to transport the lantern from eleven airports, including Athens, Paphos in Cyprus, Uzbekistan, Warsaw, Minsk, Moscow, Bucharest, Belgrade, Kiev and Chisinau in Moldova.
Because anyone entering Israel must go into quarantine, foreign dignitaries that came to pick up the flame received it in special containers on their planes and immediately flew home.
The 2020 Holy Fire Ceremony
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