Jerusalem, March 26, 2020
Adeeb Joude, the custodian in charge of the ancient key to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, closes the entrance gate to the church due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, in Jerusalem's Old City on March 25, 2020. (Ahmad GHARABLI / AFP)
The Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the holiest site in all of Christendom, encompassing both the site of Christ’s Crucifixion and the site of His burial and Resurrection, has been closed as part of the Israeli government’s new anti-coronavirus measures.
The church was closed shorty after 5:00 PM yesterday, as Israel announced new measures that include the closure of all churches, synagogues, and mosques, reports the Times of Israel.
Citizens are allowed to pray only on the street with the participation of no more than 10 people with a distance of at least 6 ft. between them, reports Ukrainian Pravda.
The restrictions announced by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also prohibit leaving one’s home except to buy essentials, such as food and medicine, or to seek medical treatment. Violating the 7-day restrictions will constitute a criminal offense, his statement said.
“We have been informed of the closure. Our understanding is that it is for one week. We hope (the church) will reopen as soon as possible,” said Wadie Abunassar, a representative of the Assembly of Catholic Ordinaries of the Holy Land.
The church’s closure comes just days after Muslim authorities closed the nearby Al-Aqsa Mosque complex on the Temple Mount, and just days after the primates of the Churches represented in the Holy Sepulchre announced that the church would remain open, while calling on pilgrims not to touch or venerate the sacred sites within.
As of last night, Israel has 2,369 cases of the coronavirus, with 5 deaths, while Palestinian authorities have recorded 60 cases, with the first death occurring yesterday.