Pope Francis Holds Palm Sunday Mass Without Public Amid Pandemic
Pope Francis celebrated Palm Sunday Mass without the public since the traditional ceremony in St. Peter’s Square was scrapped because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Normally, tens of thousands of Romans, tourists, and pilgrims, holding olive tree branches or palm fronds would gather for an outdoor Mass led by the pontiff. Instead, Francis was leading the ceremony inside St. Peter’s Basilica, which seemed even more spacious than usual because it was so empty.
Pope Francis called the pandemic a tragedy on Sunday that ‘must be faced with courage and hope’.
“Today, in the tragedy of a pandemic, in the face of the many false securities that have now crumbled, in the face of so many hopes betrayed, in the sense of abandonment that weighs upon our hearts, Jesus says to each one of us: ‘Courage, open your heart to my love’,” the pope said.
Besides his aides, a few invited prelates, nuns and laypeople were present, sitting solo in the first pews and staggered meters (yards) apart to reduce the risks of contagion.
The Vatican is abandoning centuries of tradition and refraining from public celebrations of the official start of the Catholic world’s Holy Week.
Palm Sunday marks the arrival of Jesus in Jerusalem before his crucifixion. Easter Sunday on April 12 celebrates his resurrection from the dead. But many of the world’s 1.3 billion Catholics are observing the sacred days under home confinement, just like the 83-year-old pontiff.
Pope Francis has been communicating with the outside world by video so that crowds do not gather to see and hear him in one of the world’s most famous squares.
The Vatican City itself has been closed to tourists for nearly a month as part of global efforts to stop the spread of a disease that has officially killed more than 65,000 people worldwide.
In February, Pope Francis went down with a cold and was reportedly tested for COVID-19 twice as a precaution because seven people in the Vatican have caught the virus.
However, the Vatican says the pope is now in good health.