Pope Francis celebrated Palm Sunday mass in a nearly empty St. Peter’s basilica in Rome, live streamed to millions of Catholic faithful around the world. A handful of prelates and nuns sat several meters apart in empty pews as he opened Holy Week festivities that will culminate next weekend on Easter Sunday. All celebrations will be closed to the public for the first time in modern history. Normally, the pope holds Easter celebrations in St. Peter’s Square, but this year he will live stream Easter Sunday mass from inside St. Peter’s basilica. He will also forego the traditional Way of the Cross in front of the Roman colosseum, and instead hold it alone in St. Peter’s square. Holy Week in Rome normally draws tens of thousands of Catholics to the city, which has been under lockdown over the coronavirus pandemic since March 10. Churches around the country held similarly closed Palm Sunday servives, with one priest in northern Italy taping photos of his parishoners to the empty pews.
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