Pics: Muted Easter Sunday at Jerusalem’s Church of the Holy Sepulchre

A monk walks near the Church of the Holy Sepulchre before the start of the Easter Sunday service amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Jerusalem's Old City on April 12, 2020. - All cultural sites in the Holy Land are shuttered, regardless of their religious affiliation, as authorities seek …
EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP via Getty

Jerusalem (AFP) — A handful of priests celebrated Easter on Sunday at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, built on the site where Christians believe Jesus was crucified and resurrected.

In the heart of Jerusalem’s Old City, the church — which had not been closed over Easter for at least a century — has been shuttered to worshippers along with all cultural sites in the Holy Land to curb the spread of the COVID-19 respiratory disease.

“Easter is a time for life,” said Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa, apostolic administrator of the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, who arrived at the church under the watchful eye of Israeli security forces.

This combination of pictures taken and created on April 12, 2020 shows the first nine stations of the Via Dolorosa (Way of Sorrow), empty of worshippers on Easter Sunday amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Jerusalem's Old City. - All cultural sites in the Holy Land are shuttered, regardless of their religious affiliation, as authorities seek to forestall the spread of the deadly respiratory disease. Christians will be prevented from congregating for the Easter service, whether this coming Sunday -- as in the case of Bitar and fellow Catholics -- or a week later on April 19 in the case of the Orthodox. (Photo by Emmanuel DUNAND / AFP) (Photo by EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP via Getty Images)

This combination of pictures taken and created on April 12, 2020 shows the first nine stations of the Via Dolorosa (Way of Sorrow), empty of worshippers on Easter Sunday amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Jerusalem’s Old City. – All cultural sites in the Holy Land are shuttered, regardless of their religious affiliation, as authorities seek to forestall the spread of the deadly respiratory disease. (EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP via Getty Images)

“Despite the signs of death everywhere, life will prevail as long as someone is giving life out of love for others,” he added, before entering the church.

A few faithful had gathered at the church’s inner courtyard, including one man in an immaculate white gown who had prayed in front of the closed door.

The Sepulchre is considered the holiest site in Christianity, and it typically attracts thousands of worshippers over the Easter weekend.

But the Old City, in east Jerusalem, has been rendered a ghost town following strict social distancing measures imposed by Israel, which has reported nearly 11,000 cases of the novel coronavirus.

A nun walks along the Via Dolorosa (Way of Sorrow), ahead of Easter Sunday service amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Jerusalem's Old City on April 12, 2020. - All cultural sites in the Holy Land are shuttered, regardless of their religious affiliation, as authorities seek to forestall the spread of the deadly respiratory disease. Christians will be prevented from congregating for the Easter service, whether this coming Sunday -- as in the case of Bitar and fellow Catholics -- or a week later on April 19 in the case of the Orthodox. (Photo by Emmanuel DUNAND / AFP) (Photo by EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP via Getty Images)

A nun walks along the Via Dolorosa (Way of Sorrow), ahead of Easter Sunday service amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Jerusalem’s Old City on April 12, 2020. (EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP via Getty Images)

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