UK (Sky News)

Coronavirus: Pope Francis holds Palm Sunday mass behind closed doors

By April 6, 2020 No Comments
VATICAN CITY, VATICAN - APRIL 05: Pope Francis attends the Palm Sunday Mass in an empty Vatican Basilica of St. Peter's due to the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic, on April 05, 2020 in Vatican City, Vatican. Pope Francis greeted the faithful following his Palm Sunday Mass and Angelus and prayed for the sick and their families, and all those who self-sacrificingly care for them. (Photo by Franco Origlia/Getty Images)

Pope Francis celebrated Palm Sunday mass behind closed doors due to the coronavirus outbreak, calling on the young especially to recognise the “real heroes” rather than celebrities.

There have only been seven cases of COVID-19 recorded in Vatican City but the outbreak has ravaged parts of Italy, where more than 124,000 people have been diagnosed with the coronavirus.

More than 15,000 of those who have tested positive in the country have died.

Francis was sombre during the first of several closed-door ceremonies which will take place during the Holy Week leading up to Easter Sunday, when Christians celebrate the resurrection of Christ.

VATICAN CITY, VATICAN - APRIL 05: Pope Francis attends the Palm Sunday Mass in an empty Vatican Basilica of St. Peter's due to the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic, on April 05, 2020 in Vatican City, Vatican. Pope Francis greeted the faithful following his Palm Sunday Mass and Angelus and prayed for the sick and their families, and all those who self-sacrificingly care for them. (Photo by Franco Origlia/Getty Images)
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St Peter’s Basilica was almost empty during the service

Palm Sunday, celebrating Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, is commemorated with palm fronds, which were scattered before Christ as a symbol of victory as he entered the city.

The Vatican’s service, which is normally attended by tens of thousands of Roman Catholics in an outdoor mass, was instead held inside an almost empty St Peter’s Basilica.

The Catholic Church has dedicated Palm Sunday to young people for more than three decades, and Francis called on them during his homily to recognise God’s sacrifice.

VATICAN CITY, VATICAN - APRIL 05: A singer of the Vatican choir attends Pope Francis' Palm Sunday Mass in an empty Vatican Basilica of St. Peter's due to the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic, on April 05, 2020 in Vatican City, Vatican. Pope Francis greeted the faithful following his Palm Sunday Mass and Angelus and prayed for the sick and their families, and all those who self-sacrificingly care for them. (Photo by Franco Origlia/Getty Images)
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Prelates and choir singers practiced social distancing inside

The Pope said: “Dear friends, look at the real heroes who come to light in these days: they are not famous, rich and successful people; rather, they are those who are giving themselves in order to serve others.

“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. You will feel the consolation of God who sustains you.'”

Pope Francis blesses attendees as he celebrates Palm Sunday behind closed doors in St. Peter's Basilica mass on April 5, 2020 in The Vatican, during the lockdown aimed at curbing the spread of the COVID-19 infection, caused by the novel coronavirus. (Photo by Alberto PIZZOLI / POOL / AFP) (Photo by ALBERTO PIZZOLI/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
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Pope Francis called on the young to recognise the real heroes of the pandemic

Aside from Francis’ aides and a few invited prelates, nuns and others who attended the mass – sat at an appropriate social distance across the first pews of the church – the basilica was practically empty.

A general view shows Pope Francis (Rear C) and attendees during Palm Sunday mass behind closed doors at the Chair of Saint Peter in St. Peter's Basilica mass on April 5, 2020 in The Vatican, during the lockdown aimed at curbing the spread of the COVID-19 infection, caused by the novel coronavirus. (Photo by Alberto PIZZOLI / POOL / AFP) (Photo by ALBERTO PIZZOLI/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
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Palm Sunday mass is normally held outside, but could not be due to the pandemic

Similar restrictions were in place for Palm Sunday celebrations across the world.

David Blevins, Sky News’ senior Ireland correspondent tweeted a video of Archbishop Eamon Martin celebrating mass in an empty Cathedral of St Patrick in County Armagh.

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The thousands of Christian pilgrims who normally travel to Jerusalem during Holy Week have been replaced by only a handful of participants in a march following Christ’s footsteps.

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