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Sacred rite for Orthodox Christians in Bethlehem marred by coronavirus

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Sacred rite for Orthodox Christians in Bethlehem marred by coronavirus

One of the most sacred Easter symbols of the Christian orthodox faith – the Sacred Fire – arrived in Bethlehem in the West Bank on Saturday (April 18).

But the coronavirus outbreak meant that only a large group of Eastern Orthodox clerics was able to receive it.

In normal times, Praça da Manjedoura de Belém was filled with thousands of pilgrims and faithful who passed the sacred fire among themselves to light their candles.

This year, crowds were banned in an attempt to stem the spread of the virus.

The Sacred Fire ritual, celebrated the day before the Orthodox Easter, marks the belief that a fire appears spontaneously every year from the tomb of Jesus in Jerusalem.

The ritual dates back at least 1,200 years, and the precise details of the flame's source are a closely guarded secret.

From Jerusalem, fire is distributed to Bethlehem, where tradition says that Jesus was born, and to several Eastern Orthodox countries.

As the coronavirus blockade continues, Israel said it is taking steps to help church leaders transfer the flame to predominantly Orthodox countries, including Greece, Russia and Romania.

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