Millions of Orthodox Christians are celebrating Easter Sunday, but many have been urged to observe the commemoration of Christ’s resurrection from their homes instead of their usual places of worship amid efforts to bring the COVID pandemic under control.
There are more than 260 million Orthodox Christians according to U.S.-based Pew Research Center.
Some churches streamed live services from empty places of worship, while others were open to worshippers.
In Israel, hundreds of Orthodox Christians gathered at The Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. The site is revered as the place of Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection and this year’s gathering was much larger than last because the country’s coronavirus restrictions have eased, according to Reuters.
In Russia, many worshipers in Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Savior attended mass while wearing a mask but President Vladimir Putin came to the ceremony unmasked, RFE/RL reported.
Orthodox Patriarch Kirill expressed hope that the pandemic would end soon. “This Easter is special, and its special nature lies in the hope that the bane of the pandemic will pass and leaving us with a number of important lessons,” Kirill said on state-media. COVID-19 “will after all abandon us forever.”
Orthodox pilgrims in Ethiopia attended Easter eve celebrations in one of the churches in Lalibela, located in the northern part of the country, on Saturday, where Reuters correspondents attended.
Reuters posted a video taken at the rock-hewn St. Mary church on Sunday showing people observing an Easter service. Most worshipers in the video were not wearing masks. The country has reported 258,062 cases of infection and 3,709 deaths so far, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center.
The churches in Lalibela are a major tourist attraction and have been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1978.
Christians in western churches celebrated Easter last month on April 4.
The orthodox and western churches have different dates for the observances because they use different calendars.
Orthodox churches still use the Julian calendar, while western churches use the Gregorian calendar.