Authorities in Bethlehem, in the West Bank, closed the Church of the Nativity in early March 2020 after four cases of COVID-19 were diagnosed in the town. The Church of the Nativity was built over the birthplace of Jesus Christ. All tourists were subsequently banned from entering Bethlehem. The church reopened in May with precautions.
The last time the Church of the Holy Sepulchre was closed for an extended period was 1349, during an outbreak of the Black Death in Jerusalem.
The church is unique among religious sites as it is partially controlled by several different Christian Churches. The Roman Catholic Church, Greek Orthodox Church, and Armenian Apostolic Church each share control of the building, and other Orthodox Churches also celebrate divine liturgy at the site.
First consecrated in the year 335, the church has been closed for short periods of time in the subsequent millennia due to war or other disputes. In 2018, to protest a proposed tax increase on churches, the site was closed to the public for about three days before reopening.
Easter will be celebrated on April 4 this year for Latin Rite Catholics and May 2 for Eastern Churches using the Julian calendar— both dates are observed within the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
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