Millions of Orthodox Christians celebrate Easter Sunday, but many have been invited to observe the commemoration of Christ’s Resurrection from their homes instead of their usual places of worship as part of efforts to bring the COVID pandemic under control.
There are over 260 million Orthodox Christians according to the US-based Pew Research Center.
Some churches broadcast live services from empty places of worship, while others were open to worshipers.
In Israel, hundreds of Orthodox Christians gathered at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem. The site is revered as the location of Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection and this year’s gathering was much larger than last year because the country’s restrictions on coronaviruses have eased, according to Reuters.
In Russia, many worshipers of the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow attended mass while wearing a mask, but President Vladimir Putin came to the ceremony without a mask, RFE / RL reported.
Orthodox Patriarch Kirill expressed hope that the pandemic will end soon. “This Easter is special, and its special nature lies in the hope that the scourge of the pandemic passes and leaves us with a number of important lessons,” Kirill said in state media. COVID-19 “will abandon us after all forever.”
Orthodox pilgrims in Ethiopia attended Easter Eve celebrations on Saturday at one of the churches in Lalibela, in the north of the country, where Reuters correspondents attended.
Reuters released a video taken at the rock-hewn St. Mary’s Church on Sunday showing people observing an Easter service. Most of the devotees in the video weren’t wearing masks. The country has so far reported 258,062 cases of infection and 3,709 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center.
The churches of Lalibela are a major tourist attraction and have been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1978.
Christians in Western churches celebrated Easter on April 4.
Orthodox and Western churches observe most public holidays 13 days apart as they follow the Julian and Gregorian calendars, respectively.
For Easter, their calculations differ based on the dates of the first full moon after the spring equinox and the Jewish Passover in a given year. As a result, some years their Easter dates coincide, in others they may be several weeks apart. The next “joint” Easter celebration will take place in 2025.