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Orthodox Christians celebrate their Easter amidst Coronavirus social distancing

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The world’s Orthodox Christians are celebrating Easter – the most important festival in their calendar, amid a series of restrictions and bans.

This year the Eastern Orthodox faithful, including those with Greek, Macedonian, Serbian and Russian ethnic ties, can’t attend church because of COVID-19 restrictions.

Eastern Orthodox Christians celebrate Pascha, or Easter, this Sunday, a week after other Christians because they follow the Julian calendar rather than the more modern Gregorian calendar, said the Rev. David Bissias, priest at St. Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church in Hammond.

“The complicated rule to calculate the date of Easter in both traditions means that the Orthodox might celebrate on the same Sunday as all others, or may be separated by nearly five weeks. This year, though only one week apart, Orthodox find themselves in the same position as other traditions due to the coronavirus pandemic,” Bissias said.

A small group of Christian clergy celebrated on Saturday the Holy Fire ceremony at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in a deserted Jerusalem as pilgrims who normally attended the ancient ritual stayed home due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Clergymen entered the Edicule, a chamber built on the site where Christians believe Jesus was buried two thousand years ago and rose from the dead after being crucified. Bells were tolled above a near-empty church as the Greek Orthodox Patriarch, Theophilos III, emerged from the crypt carrying a candle lit by the flame. The source of the flame is a closely-guarded secret.

A candle is traditionally lit with the Holy Fire in the crypt of the Holy Sepulchre by Greek Orthodox Patriarch Theophilos III, to symbolise the resurrection of Jesus.

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