Nearly two months ago to the day, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem was closed to prevent the spread of coronavirus on March 25th.
However this Sunday, the Custodians of the Holy Sepulchre officially reopened one of the holiest sites in the Faith for pilgrims once again on May 24th.
In their statement announcing the decision to reopen, they outlined the measures necessary to make it possible:
“For safety reasons and in order to avoid the risk of a new spread of the COVID-19 infection, at the beginning the number will be limited (to 50 persons) and the Basilica will be accessible only to those who have no fever or symptoms of infection and are wearing suitable face coverings.”
They added that the usual social distancing will be enforced, along with barring any acts of devotion that include physical contact:
“It will also be necessary to keep a minimal distance of 2 meters between each person and to avoid any act of devotion that might include physical contact such as touching and kissing the stones, icons, vestments and the personnel in the Basilica; as well as abide always by the given instructions.”
The Custodians of the Holy Sepulchre ended their statement urging prayer to end the coronavirus.
“From this Holy Place, in this Easter time, we continue our prayers, asking for the end of this pandemic.”
The last time the Church of the Holy Sepulchre was closed because of disease was in 1349 during an outbreak of the plague in Jerusalem. Today, the Church receives nearly 3 million visitors a year.