By Laura Serrano-Conde / Vatican City / Pope Francis has celebrated Palm Sunday mass alone in Saint Peter’s Basilica for the first time in history due to coronavirus pandemic restrictions.
The rites to mark the beginning of Holy Week, an important religious festival in the Catholic calendar, were not held in Vatican Square as usual and there was no congregation present at the ceremony.
Instead millions of people followed the liturgy on the internet, radio and television amid widespread isolation measures imposed around the world due to the deadly outbreak.
The pope said during his homily: “The tragedy we are experiencing summons us to take seriously the things that are serious, and not to be caught up in those that matter less; to rediscover that life is of no use if not used to serve others. For life is measured by love.”
Only a small group of people were present with the pontiff for the service, respecting social distancing measures by maintaining a safe distance at all times.
Easter celebrations will take place this year without the faithful, with those who want to participate doing so from their homes.
The Vatican has been forced to adopt preventive measures since the emergence of the outbreak which has seen more than 1.2 million global infections and 66,500 deaths.
Italy has been one of the worst affected countries in the world with almost 125,000 confirmed cases and more than 15,300 deaths.
Saint Peter’s Square and basilica in Vatican City were closed to the public in March.
The pope told people feeling lonely to cling to their faith in these difficult times.
“When we have our back to the wall, when we find ourselves at a dead end, with no light and no way of escape, when it seems that God himself is not responding, we should remember that we are not alone,” he said.
He added: “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’.”
He urged people around the world to support each other: “May we reach out to those who are suffering and those most in need.
“May we not be concerned about what we lack, but what good we can do for others.”
He encouraged young people in particular to cultivate generosity and solidarity.
“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,” he added.
The pope will officiate at a mass on Maundy Thursday but without the traditional foot washing that he used to carry out at migrant shelters or in prisons.
Good Friday mass will be held inside the basilica and there will be no faithful at the Easter Vigil on Saturday or at mass on Easter Sunday. EFE-EPA
lo que falta
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