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Christians celebrate Good Friday as the holy places are gradually reopened

YERUSA ALE EU (AP) – Christians in the Holy Land celebrate this Friday after the end of the coronavirus crisis. Religious sites are open to a limited number of devotees, but none of the mass pilgrimages during the Holy Week preceding Christmas

Last year, Jerusalem was under heavy siege, with small groups of priests often behind closed doors in sacred rites. It was a sharp departure from the years when tens of thousands of pilgrims descended on the city’s sanctuaries.

This year the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, built on the site where Christians believe Jesus was crucified, died, resurrected, is open to visitors, is waiting for dozens. After the morning prayer, they will return to the last steps of Jesus along Vi Dolorosa.

Holy Week events in the Vatican are celebrated in front of a limited number of masked believers to honor COVID-19 health և social exclusion norms.

“The cases are open, but carefully, gradually,” said Vadi Abunasar, an adviser to church leaders in the Holy Land. “We urge people to come out in the coming years. “Last year we told people to stay home. This year we are somehow silent.”

Israel has launched one of the most successful vaccination campaigns in the world, allowing it to reopen restaurants, hotels and religious sites. But air travel is still limited to quarantine and other restrictions, keeping foreign pilgrims, who usually gather in Jerusalem during the week, away.

The main shrines are located in the Old City east of Jerusalem, which Israel occupied along the west bank of the Jordan River in 1967. In the war. Israel seized East Jerusalem, considering the whole city its united capital, while the Palestinians want both territories for their future state.

Israel has included Palestinians in Jerusalem in its vaccination campaign, but has provided only small amounts of the vaccine to those in the occupied West Bank, where the Palestinian Authority has introduced tens of thousands of doses to more than 2.5 million people.

Israeli authorities have announced that up to 5,000 Palestinian Christians from the Jordan River will be allowed to enter the festival. Abu Nassar said he was not aware that large groups of tours of the West Bank in recent years were likely to reflect concerns about the virus.

Abu Nasar said most Christians in the region celebrate Holy Week in their local parishes. Only a small number of people, mostly priests and foreigners living in the Holy Land, are expected in the Old Town on Good Friday.

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