Unprecedented scenes at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem on Great Saturday ahead of the Greek Orthodox Easter. The thousands of faithful eagerly waiting for the Holy Fire are not allowed due to coronavirus pandemic. Crowding is not permitted. The magnificent religious event has been cancelled in the interest and the protection of the public health.
Instead of the usual crowds of people, just a few priests, some security guards, empty court yards, silence in- and outside.
Only a few priests were allowed to participate in the ceremony.
Short before one o’ clock the Greek Orthodox Patriarch came out of the crypt and with Holy Fire.
Israeli authorities do not allow foreign countries representatives to receive the Holy Fire from the Church, they do not even allow them to tough ground in the country. Diplomatic representations will bring the Holy Fire to the airplanes from different countries, currently parked at Ben Gurion in Tel Aviv.
Onboard of the Aegean Airlines airplane the Greek representation is held to a minimum number of people. The Exarch of the Holy Sepulcher Church in Athens, Archimandrite Damianos and one assistant.
When the plane arrives in Eleftherios Venizelos in Athens on Saturday afternoon, there will be a simple ceremony with the participation of just 17 people, without the magnificence of previous years, without red carpets, big bands and the usual honors.
Deputy Foreign Minister Konstantinos Vlassis and the Bishop of Mesogaia and Lavreotiki, Nikolaos, will receive the Holy Fire.
The Holy Light will be transferred for safekeeping to the Metochion of the Patriarchate in Plaka district of Athens.
For the first time, the Holy Fire will not be distributed across the country.
“For us top priority is the protection of public health” Vlassis said stressing that “we want to avoid crowding.”
It is clear that had the Holy Fire be distributed to cities, towns and villages, Greeks would flock to the churches to receive it, even if churches are closed to the public.