Christians around Jordan on Sunday, April 26, flocked to newly reopened churches for Palm Sunday celebrations, marking the beginning of Holy Week ahead of Easter.
The holiday was marred last year by the COVID-19 pandemic, and gatherings in churches were banned as part of measures to curb the spread of the virus, but the government announced last week that it will allow churches to reopen for Palm Sunday and Easter celebrations this year.
Christian belief commemorates on Palm Sunday, also known as Passion Sunday, the entrance of Lord Jesus Christ into Jerusalem, where palm branches were believed to be placed in his path.
Churches mark the holiday by distributing palm leaves, which are later either saved or burned into ashes.
Mousa Bajali, Honorary Consul for the Republic of Fiji, told Jordan News that the fact that the churches were opened for worshippers on Palm Sunday “reflects the respect and harmonious living for which Jordan is known.”
Priests who spoke to Jordan News said that they made sure throughout the ceremonies that people entering the church are wearing face masks and maintaining social distancing, emphasizing the importance of following the COVID-19 protocols to protect public health and safety.
Parish Priest of the Catholic Church in Fuheis Imad Twal said in a phone interview that the opening of churches for Palm Sunday celebrations makes it “extra special”, since last year the conditions did not allow for such gatherings.
Twal added that a maximum of two people were allowed to share seat benches, separated by ribbons.
“Compared to pre-COVID times, when Palm Sunday would normally witness big gatherings, the numbers were lower due to the pandemic,” Twal said.
“Many children and elders did not attend the prayer, and some of the church rituals were cancelled, including the processions.”
He added that churches observed two masses, one in the morning and one in the afternoon, in order to give a chance to all those planning to celebrate the event to do so, without holding large gatherings, in compliance with the government’s health protocol.
Wearing their face masks and social distancing to protect themselves, Christians at the church waved their palm fronds as the priest sprinkled holy water on them.
Journalist Nadine Nimri said that Palm Sunday “is a special occasion that brings joy to both the young and old, but especially the children, who are involved in the ceremony by holding branches and candles during the services.”
She added that as thankful as she is for the reopening churches for this occasions, she wished that she would be able to attend the mass of Good Friday, the Friday before Easter.
As lockdown will be imposed throughout April 30, the day Christians are set to mark Good Friday, churches will broadcast mass on social media, but they will not be permitted to open for attendees.
Hannen Karadsheh, from Madaba Governorate, said that along with her husband and their two little girls, they attended the morning mass “wearing masks, maintaining distances, and praying for people’s safety, but mostly praying for the end of the pandemic.”
“It is a very special day today,” said George Bahbah, a church goer from Zarqa Governorate, “that we are able to celebrate Palm Sunday at church with family and friends, a matter that enhances our morale and improves our spiritual health, the two things we are in dire need of these day.”
Similarly, his wife, Hanadi, said that “with all of the sickness, fear, isolation, and death brought by the pandemic, being in church to pray and listen to the ceremony was needed now more than ever.”