Tue | Jul 7, 2020

Jerusalem’s Palm Sunday procession scaled back due to virus

Published:Sunday | April 5, 2020 | 9:25 AM
A woman prays in front of the closed Church of the Holy Sepulchre, a place where Christians believe Jesus Christ was buried, as a palm hangs on the door, in Jerusalem's Old City, Sunday, April 5, 2020. The traditional Palm Sunday procession was cancelled due to restrictions imposed to contain the spread of the coronavirus. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

JERUSALEM (AP) — A small group of Franciscan monks and Roman Catholic faithful took to the streets of Jerusalem’s Christian Quarter in the Old City Sunday to distribute olive branches after the traditional Palm Sunday procession was cancelled due to restrictions imposed to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

Elsewhere in the region, Iran, which is dealing with the worst outbreak in the Mideast, announced plans to allow some businesses to reopen later this month even as the death toll continued to climb.

Lebanon reopened its airport to allow citizens stranded overseas to return home, while churches that had remained open for Palm Sunday even during the country’s 1975-1990 civil war were mostly empty.

Palm Sunday celebrations start the Holy Week leading up to Easter.

Worshippers in Jerusalem traditionally carry palm fronds and olive branches and march from the top of the Mount of Olives into the Old City.

While thousands of pilgrims usually participate in the march, this year was limited to a handful of participants. Clerics and faithful went door to door often throwing the branches to Christians looking on from their balconies.

“This year because of the new situation we are trying to come to all the Christians in our Christian Quarter to bring these branches of olives, the sign of new hope,” said the Reverend Sandro Tomasevic, a Catholic clergyman at the Latin Parish of Jerusalem.

Palm Sunday commemorates Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem and is the start of the church’s most solemn week, which includes the Good Friday reenactment of Jesus’ crucifixion and death and his resurrection on Easter.

In Israel, more than 8,000 people have contracted the coronavirus and 46 have died.

In the West Bank, nearly 200 cases have been reported, including a large outbreak in the biblical town of Bethlehem.

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