Only a small group of religious accompanied the pope, who respected the safety distance at all times, and the liturgy was held at the altar of the Chair of St. Peter’s Basilica, and not under the canopy.

EFE –

He Pope Francisco today has begun the rites of the Easter week with the liturgical celebration of a Palm Sunday special, since it has taken place inside the Basilica of Saint Peter and not in the Vatican square, as usual, and has not had any faithful due to the crisis in coronavirus.

“The drama we are going through forces us to take seriously what counts, not to lose ourselves in insignificant things, to rediscover that life does not serve, if it does not serve. Because life is measured from love. In this way, in home, on these holy days let us stand before the Crucified, which is the measure of the love that God has for us, “said Francisco during the homily.

Only a small group of religious accompanied the pope, who respected the safety distance at all times, and the liturgy was held at the altar of the Chair of the basilica of Saint Peter, and not under the canopy.

This will be a Easter week Particular that Francisco will celebrate without the faithful and those who want to participate will have to do it from their homes, through the media or social networks.

The emergence of coronavirus, which in Italy has caused more than 15,000 deaths, has forced the Vatican to adopt preventive measures to avoid contagions and already in March it was decided to close the Vatican square and basilica temporarily.

On March 27, Jorge Bergoglio gave a historic “Urbi et Orbi” blessing – to the city and to the world – from a St. Peter’s Square in the Vatican totally empty of the faithful, and that image has been repeated this Palm Sunday.

That day, the image of the Virgin Salus Populi Romani, which is usually kept in the Basilica of Santa MarĂ­a la Mayor, and the crucified Christ of the Church of San Marcello were taken to the Vatican, and both were placed today on the altar, for they have already become the symbol of the pope’s prayer for the eradication of this pandemic.

The interior of the basilica was also decorated with some olive and palm trees.

The pope gave a homily in which he asked people to avoid feeling lonely and cling to faith in these difficult times.

“When we feel between a rock and a hard place, when we find ourselves in an impasse, without light and without escape, when it seems that not even God responds, let us remember that we are not alone,” he said.

“Today, in the drama of the pandemic, in the face of so many certainties that crumble, in the face of so many betrayed expectations, with the feeling of abandonment that oppresses our hearts, Jesus says to each one: ‘Courage, open your heart to my love You will feel the comfort of God, who sustains you, “he added.

Francis asked the faithful around the world to contact the one who suffers, “the one who is alone and in need.”

And he sent a message to the younger ones: “Look at the true heroes that come to light these days. They are not the ones who have fame, money and success, but are the ones who give themselves to serve others” .

He also recalled before the Angelus prayer that it was scheduled for this Sunday that the young people of Panama would deliver the Cross for World Youth Day to those in Lisbon, but it will be next November 22.

Until then, he encouraged young people to cultivate generosity and solidarity.

This year’s will be a Easter week different. The Chrism Mass on Holy Thursday in which the holy oils are blessed that will serve throughout the year to impart the sacraments has been canceled.

Francisco will officiate the Holy Thursday mass but not the traditional foot washing that he used to do in migrant shelters or in prisons.

There will also be a mass on Good Friday, like the day before inside the Basilica, but the Via Crucis will be celebrated in Saint Peter’s Square and not in the Colosseum, where it has been held continuously since 1964.

There will also be no faithful at the Easter Vigil on Saturday or at the Easter Mass on Sunday, after which Francis will impart the “Urbi et Orbi” blessing.