Pope Francis called for solidarity the world over to confront the “epochal challenge” posed by the coronavirus pandemic, reports the AP, as Christians celebrated a solitary Easter Sunday, blending the joyful feast day with sorrow over the toll the virus has already taken.
Families that normally would attend morning Mass wearing their Easter best and later join friends for meals hunkered down at home.
Police checkpoints in Europe and closed churches around the globe forced the faithful to watch Easter services online or on TV.
A few lucky Rome residents attended Mass from their balconies overlooking Santa Emerenziana church in the Trieste neighborhood, where a priest celebrated a rooftop open-air service.
“We feel close to each other despite this distance,” parishioner Luca Rosati said.
“We can experience from here what we normally would experience inside the church, as a community.”
At the Vatican, Francis celebrated Mass in a largely empty St. Peter’s Basilica, with a handful of faithful sitting one per pew.
Normally, St. Peter’s Square would be awash in fresh flowers for Easter, with tulips and orchids decorating the piazza’s promenade in a riot of color to underscore Easter’s message of life and rebirth following Christ’s crucifixion.
This year, however, the cobblestoned piazza was bare. Francis instead stayed indoors, underscoring the solitude confronting all of humanity amid lockdown orders. Francis’ lonely Mass was a scene that was repeated around the world.
The Anglican archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, celebrated Easter Sunday in full robes behind a makeshift altar on his dining room table in London.
“Welcome to the kitchen of our home on Easter Day,” he said. “Once this epidemic is conquered here and elsewhere, we cannot be content to go back to what was before as if all was normal.”