Orthodox Christians from all over the world are celebrating the most important festival in their calendar this weekend amid a series of restrictions and bans on traditional observance.
Authorities in Eastern Europe and the Middle East have said congregations must not attend services.
However, in Georgia, worshippers will still be able to attend churches.
Russia’sOrthodox Church has agreed to break from its annual traditions and is urging millions of believers not to attend church. Worshippers usually attend late-night processions to receive blessings. This year Mass will only be held in the presence of priests and other clergy.
In Greece, restrictions on movement have so far been widely praised for curbing the spread of coronavirus.
This Easter authorities have banned attendance of church services, which would normally attract hundreds of thousands of worshippers.
When the Holy Fire arrives in Athens on Saturday evening it will be taken to the Jerusalem patriarchate in Athens and unusually will not be distributed to churches elsewhere.
The Church has backed the ban and thousands of police have been deployed to prevent Greeks using the holiday to visit relatives or second homes.
In Romania, people have been told they will not be allowed to leave their homes to receive the Holy Fire on Easter night or take bread splashed with holy water and wine, as is traditional. However, the Holy Light will be distributed to the homes of believers who request it.
The neighboring country, Bulgaria, has imposed a curfew on the capital Sofia to stop traffic in and out of the city to stop people heading off on holiday.
Churches in Serbia and Montenegro have told worshippers to celebrate Easter at home.
However, North Macedonia’s Orthodox Church says it will not use force to prevent people going to church.
InUkraine, officials have said riot police will be deployed if believers start gathering at churches in big numbers.
Egypt’s Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II held a Good Friday service without a congregation at a monastery north-east of Cairo. The service was televised live on Coptic Orthodox TV channels and showed deacons and priests gathered with gaps between them to prevent the spread of Covid-19.
The Holy Flame was taken on Saturday, April 18, to the Church of the Holy Nativity in the Palestinian town of Bethlehem in the occupied West Bank.
The traditional Holy Fire ceremony went ahead in a near-deserted Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem.
The church was closed last month and only a handful of Orthodox clergy, some of them wearing black masks, were allowed in for the ceremony.
A candle is traditionally lit with the Holy Fire in the crypt of the Holy Sepulchre by Greek Orthodox Patriarch Theophilos III, to symbolize the resurrection of Jesus.
Instead of the flame being passed on to thousands of pilgrims, this time the ceremony was attended by the Armenian Orthodox patriarch, four assistants and Coptic and Syrian archbishops, Israeli media report.
The church bells tolled and the flame was carried out of the church by Theophilos III and others to be taken to Ben Gurion airport near Tel Aviv and flown to 10 countries.
Orthodox Christians from around the world have celebrated Easter in overnight services and with holy fire from Jerusalem, commemorating Jesus Christ’s resurrection.
This year’s Orthodox Easter falls on April 8, seven days after Catholic Easter, due to the difference in calendars followed by both churches.
The day is known as Pascha and is the most important celebration from all the Christian holidays, celebrating Jesus’ resurrection. The day of Easter was declared to be the first day of the full moon following the Spring Equinox that occurs on March 21. The Eastern and Western Churches still ended up with a difference in celebration due to the use of the Gregorian calendar at first and later the Julian calendar.
Some years, both Orthodox and Catholic Churches will celebrate Easter on the same day.
On the Great and Holy Saturday, Orthodox clerics from around the world transport the holy flame from Jerusalem by plane and it’s then flown to other churches around their countries. According to tradition, the holy flame appears each year at the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem and is taken to other Orthodox countries.
The celebration of Pascha is the most important celebration for the Orthodox Churches. It is the center of the Christian faith, the belief that Jesus Christ, after his death on the cross in Jerusalem, was resurrected.
Thousands of Christian Orthodox pilgrims have crowded the Old City of Jerusalem for the Holy Fire ceremony.
The Orthodox Easter Holy Fire is considered a miracle occurring every year on Holy Saturday, the day preceding Orthodox Easter Sunday.
The crowding forced police to close the Christian Quarter and tempers flared as Christian pilgrims and local Christians could not get through to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
The Church of the Holy Sepulchre is believed to be built on the site of Jesus’ crucifixion, burial and resurrection.
Israeli police deployed hundreds of officers in to secure the old city as Christian worshipers from the Orthodox denominations eagerly anticipated the ceremony.
Those who arrived early watched as the key-holder to the sacred site arrived to unlock the church doors. Due to the church being divided by different denominations, the keys are held by a Muslim man whose family has been considered neutral by all parties for several generations.
Each year at 14:00 local time (12:00GMT), on the day before Orthodox Easter Sunday, the ceremony marks a miracle.
After a procession around the church, all of the lights inside are extinguished before the entrance of the Greek Orthodox Patriarch who carries a handful of candles. When the Patriarch emerges, the candles are believed to be lit by a miraculous flame which is then used to light the candles of the congregation.
Privacy & Cookies Policy
Necessary cookies are absolutely essential for the website to function properly. This category only includes cookies that ensures basic functionalities and security features of the website. These cookies do not store any personal information.
Any cookies that may not be particularly necessary for the website to function and is used specifically to collect user personal data via analytics, ads, other embedded contents are termed as non-necessary cookies. It is mandatory to procure user consent prior to running these cookies on your website.