It’s one of the visual symbols of Romania: worshipers thronging to Orthodox churches for the Easter service that starts just before midnight and lasts until dawn.
Only this year, the coronavirus pandemic has put the ancient tradition on hold.
Orthodox believers celebrate Easter on April 19 this year and Palm Sunday on April 12, the day when Catholic and Protestant celebrate the feast, the most important date in the Christian calendar.
A few priests have held services through Lent, the 40-day period leading up to the Christ’s resurrection, and have been fined. Public church services were banned under the state of emergency which came into effect on March 16.
Ahead of Easter, there were questions whether Romanians would forgo one of the country’s most cherished traditions.
But the official line from the Romanian Orthodox Church which came on Tuesday is that it won’t be Easter as usual this year.
Spokesman for the Romanian Orthodox Church Vasile Banescu said: “In the current, harsh conditions that are valid during the state of emergency, services in this period, including Palm Sunday and the Resurrection will be held in churches, but unfortunately without the faithful.”
“They can follow follow or watch them on radio and television or Trinitas (the patriarchy’s television and radio station) or online,” he told the national news agency, Agerpres.
“Although we will be restricted to staying indoors on Easter night, we will succeed in sharing the deep, awesome joy of Christ’s Resurrection,” by reading and reflecting on the gospels.
Banescu encouraged believers to light a candle in their front windows and sing “Christ has Risen!” and pray for the sick and a speedy end to the pandemic, which on Tuesday had sickened almost 4,500 people in Romania and led to 182 deaths.
More than 85% of Romanians are Orthodox Christians.