RELIGION

Holy Sepulchre church opens on Palm Sunday in Jerusalem

In scenes very different from last year, Jerusalem’s Church of the Holy Sepulchre was open to the public on Palm Sunday, allowing Christians to attend mass at the start of Holy Week at the site where they believe Jesus was crucified and resurrected.

With more than half the population of Israel having received two vaccine doses, coronavirus restrictions were eased to allow small congregations to gather with social distancing measures in place.

The mood was celebratory as scores of Roman Catholics passed through the huge wooden doors of the church that is the global focus of the most important festival in the Christian calendar.

“Last year was a terrible Easter, without people, closed doors. This year is much better, the door is open, we don’t have a lot of people but we feel more hopeful that things will become better,” the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Pierbattista Pizzaballa, told Reuters news agency as he emerged from the church flanked by clerics and worshippers carrying palm fronds.

“The message of Easter is life and love, despite all the signs of death, corona, pandemic, whatever, we believe in the power of love and life,” Pizzaballa said.

Palm Sunday commemorates the day the gospels say Jesus rode into Jerusalem and was hailed by the people, only to be crucified five days later.

This year, Roman Catholics celebrate Easter on April 4 and Orthodox Christians nearly a month later, on May 2.

Later the patriarch was expected to take part in a Palm Sunday procession from the Mount of Olives to the Old City.

The procession will take place under Israeli COVID-19 restrictions with a limited number of participants.

Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem Pierbattista Pizzaballa walks along with Christian worshippers and the clergy holding palm fronds during a Palm Sunday procession outside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. [Ammar Awad/Reuters]

Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem Pierbattista Pizzaballa walks along with Christian worshippers and the clergy holding palm fronds during a Palm Sunday procession outside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. [Ammar Awad/Reuters]Advertisement

Palm Sunday, which is the biblical account of Jesus Christ's entry into Jerusalem and which ushers in Holy Week, is expected to be marked by Catholics amid health protocols in place to avoid the spread of COVID-19 during the Lent season. [Atef Safadi/EPA]

Palm Sunday, which is the biblical account of Jesus Christ’s entry into Jerusalem and which ushers in Holy Week, is expected to be marked by Catholics amid health protocols in place to avoid the spread of COVID-19 during the Lent season. [Atef Safadi/EPA]

Holy Week in Christianity is the week just before Easter and includes Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday. [Atef Safadi/EPA]

Holy Week in Christianity is the week just before Easter and includes Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday. [Atef Safadi/EPA]

Nuns and Christian worshippers hold palm fronds during a Palm Sunday procession in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. [Ammar Awad/Reuters]

Nuns and Christian worshippers hold palm fronds during a Palm Sunday procession in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. [Ammar Awad/Reuters]

Holy Week culminates in joyous celebrations on Easter Sunday as Christians celebrate their belief that Jesus rose from the dead. [Atef Safadi/EPA]

Holy Week culminates in joyous celebrations on Easter Sunday as Christians celebrate their belief that Jesus rose from the dead. [Atef Safadi/EPA]

After a year of coronavirus restrictions, Holy Week celebrations are resuming. [Maya Alleruzzo/AP Photo]

After a year of coronavirus restrictions, Holy Week celebrations are resuming. [Maya Alleruzzo/AP Photo]

A couple lights candles during Palm Sunday mass in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in the Old City of Jerusalem. [Maya Alleruzzo/AP Photo]

A couple lights candles during Palm Sunday mass in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in the Old City of Jerusalem. [Maya Alleruzzo/AP Photo]

Christian clergymen take part in the Palm Sunday Mass in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. [Atef Safadi/EPA]

Christian clergymen take part in the Palm Sunday Mass in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. [Atef Safadi/EPA]

Worshippers attend Palm Sunday mass in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in the Old City of Jerusalem. [Maya Alleruzzo/AP Photo]

Worshippers attend Palm Sunday mass in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in the Old City of Jerusalem. [Maya Alleruzzo/AP Photo]

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