A small group of Franciscan monks and Roman Catholic faithful took to the streets of Jerusalem’s Christian Quarter in the Old City Sunday to distribute olive branches after the traditional Palm Sunday procession was cancelled due to restrictions imposed to contain the spread of the coronavirus.
Elsewhere in the region, Iran, which is dealing with the worst outbreak in the Mideast, announced plans to allow some businesses to reopen later this month even as the death toll continued to climb.
Lebanon reopened its airport to allow citizens stranded overseas to return home, while churches that had remained open for Palm Sunday even during the country’s 1975-1990 civil war were mostly empty.
A top Pakistani official also called on the United Nations and other wealthier countries to send emergency food and medical assistance to hundreds of thousands of Afghan refugees locked down in camps in the border region.
Palm Sunday celebrations start the Holy Week leading up to Easter. Worshipers in Jerusalem traditionally carry palm fronds and olive branches and march from the top of the Mount of Olives into the Old City.