Pope begins Holy Week events without the public

Pope begins Holy Week events without the public”

Pope Francis holds a palm branch as he celebrates Palm Sunday Mass yesterday behind closed doors in St Peter's Basilica at the Vatican. The Pope urged people not to be concerned by what they lack, but how they can ease the suffering of others.

The service marking the start of holy week was watched by millions on TV and online. In one church, a priest marked Palm Sunday with Mass in the narrow confines of his church's bell tower.

Gone were the huge crowds of worshippers who traditionally flock to a St Peter's Square bedecked with olive and palm trees. The service normally includes a long procession of cardinals, priests and faithful carrying palm fronds.

He instead delivered the closed-door ceremony to aides, a few invited prelates, nuns and laypeople, who observed social distancing.

"May we reach out to those who are suffering and those most in need", Francis said in his virtual address.

He said the COVID-19 Pandemic is being experienced across countries in order for everyone to discover that life is measured by love and was of no use if not used to serve others.

"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,"
Feel called yourselves to put your lives on the line", the Pope added".

More news: Japan to declare state of emergency for Tokyo, other areas

It proved a rousing occasion, with Pope Francis using the Mass to encourage young people to step up and help others during the pandemic.

"The tragedy the world is experiencing tells us to take seriously the things that are serious, and not to be caught up in those that matter less".

Francis announced that the handover ceremony would take place instead on November 22.

"Loving, praying, forgiving, caring for others, in the family and in society" can be hard, Pope Francis admitted.

Palm Sunday Mass will therefore be the first in a week of closed-door Holy Week events, of which some require some tweaks in tradition.

The Vatican has been in its own lockdown, mostly mirroring that in Italy, where more than 15,500 people have died since the outbreak of the COVID-19 epidemic in northern Italy on February 21. The virus causes mild to moderate symptoms in most people, but for some, especially older adults and the infirm, it can cause pneumonia and lead to death.

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