Pope Francis prays as he celebrates Palm Sunday Mass behind closed doors in St. Peter’s Basilica, at the Vatican, Sunday, during the lockdown aimed at curbing the spread of coronavirus.
St. Peter’s Basicalla was virtually empty for Palm Sunday Mass, where usually tens of thousands would gather. Just a few nuns, prelates, and laypeople gathered, abiding by social distancing guidelines, while Pope Francis live-streamed the mass in his homily.
Francis asked worshipers to think of others suffering from coronavirus.
“The tragedy we are experiencing summons us to take seriously the things that are serious,” Francis said, “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.”
The virtual Mass affected traditional Palm Sunday rites around the globe; in Argentina, worshipers used plants already in their homes for traditional blessings, rather than buying palm branches.
In the U.S. Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo urged church-goers to stay home and stream mass services.
“May we reach out to those who are suffering and those most in need,” Francis said in his virtual address. “May we not be concerned with what we lack, but what good we can do for others.”
Normally celebrated outdoors in front of thousands of tourists, the Pope instead spoke in the presence only of a small handful of priests and nuns and a reduced choir, who all maintained a safe distance from one another.
“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 said.
“Feel called yourselves to put your lives on the line,” the Pope added. “Do not be afraid to devote your life to God and to others, it pays!”
Palm Sunday mass inaugurates the beginning of Holy Week, the most important week of the Christian liturgical calendar which culminates in Easter, next Sunday, April 12.