Holy Fire ceremony at Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem
Archive: The Holy Fire ceremony at Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, April 2018
Photo: EPA
A lone worshipper prays over the Stone of Anointing at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in the Old City of Jerusalem, March 22, 2020

Israel to help Christians share Holy Fire ceremony despite virus outbreak

Due to ban on mass gatherings, officials say April 18 ceremony at Church of Sepulchre will be limited to about 10 religious leaders from various Orthodox denominations, with a creative way to deliver flame to overseas communities

Associated Press |
Published: 04.03.20 , 17:21
Israel is working with foreign governments and Orthodox Christian leaders in the Holy Land to make sure that one of their most ancient and mysterious rituals -- the Holy Fire ceremony -- is not extinguished by the coronavirus outbreak, officials said Friday.
  • Follow Ynetnews on Facebook and Twitter
  • Each year, thousands of worshippers flock to Jerusalem's Old City and pack into the Church of the Holy Sepulchre -- built on the site where Christian tradition holds that Jesus was crucified, buried and resurrected -- for the pre-Easter ceremony.
    A lone worshipper prays over the Stone of Anointing at the Church   of the Holy Sepulchre in the Old City of Jerusalem, March 22, 2020 A lone worshipper prays over the Stone of Anointing at the Church   of the Holy Sepulchre in the Old City of Jerusalem, March 22, 2020
    A lone worshipper prays over the Stone of Anointing at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in the Old City of Jerusalem, March 22, 2020
    (Photo: AFP)
    Top Eastern Orthodox clerics enter the Edicule, the small chamber marking the site of Jesus' tomb, and exit with candles said to be miraculously lit with "holy fire" as a message to the faithful.
    The flame is normally shared with candle-holding pilgrims and even sent in special containers to Orthodox Christian communities around the world.
    A Greek Orthodox priest and a caretaker stand in front the   deserted Edicule in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in   the Old City of Jerusalem, March 15, 2020 A Greek Orthodox priest and a caretaker stand in front the   deserted Edicule in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in   the Old City of Jerusalem, March 15, 2020
    A Greek Orthodox priest and a caretaker stand in front of the deserted Edicule in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in the Old City of Jerusalem
    (Photo: AFP)
    Details of the flame's source are a closely guarded secret.
    Due to a ban on large public gatherings this year because of the virus pandemic, officials say the April 18 ceremony will be limited to about 10 religious leaders from various Orthodox denominations. They have also developed a creative way to deliver the flame to overseas communities.
    Because anyone entering Israel must go into quarantine, foreign dignitaries coming to pick up the flame will receive it on their plane and immediately return home.
    Holy Fire ceremony at Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem Holy Fire ceremony at Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem
    Archive: The Holy Fire ceremony at Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, April 2018
    (Photo: EPA)
    The coronavirus causes mild to moderate symptoms in most patients, who recover within a few weeks. But it is highly contagious and can be spread by people showing no symptoms. It can cause serious illness and death in some patients, particularly the elderly and those with underlying health issues.
    Akiva Tor, who heads the Foreign Ministry's department for world religions, said the arrangement has been discussed with local church leaders and coordinated with several foreign countries with large Orthodox populations, including Greece, Russia, Georgia and Ukraine.
    Holy Fire ceremony at Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem Holy Fire ceremony at Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem
    Archive: The Holy Fire ceremony at Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, April 2018
    (Photo: EPA)
    Tor said church officials have been understanding.
    "We have the same goal in mind, which is to enable the continuation of this miraculous event while being respectful of the medical emergency which is taking place," he said.

    Talkbacks for this article 0