Pope will broadcast Easter mass live to the closed world
VATICAN CITY: Pope Francis will break centuries of tradition and live broadcast Easter Sunday Mass to allow the 1.3 billion Catholics in the world to celebrate their holiest feasts under lockout.
Fear and confusion in the face of a disease whose official death toll has risen more than 100,000, but whose true fear is even greater, are reshaping society and transforming the way religion is viewed.
Even sacred traditions like the Pope's messages to the faithful in St. Peter's Square have been replaced by prayers that Francis reads on camera from the isolation of his private library.
His only audience is the camera and the 83-year-old Argentine has admitted that the whole experience makes him feel caged.
Francis cut a solitary but striking figure as he slowly entered a completely empty and dark Vatican square in his white robe for a torchlit Good Friday procession.
It had taken place around the Roman Colosseum in the presence of at least 20,000 worshipers for over 50 years.
But Rome and the rest have been living under forced confinement since early March.
His Easter Sunday Mass and "Urbi et Orbi" blessing drew 70,000 to Saint Peter's Square last year.
The Vatican entrance is now closed by the police armed with masks and rubber gloves.
The Pope has openly admitted that he was fighting along with everyone else to make sense of these extraordinary times.
We have to respond to our confinement with all our creativity, Francis said in an interview published by various Catholic newspapers this week.
We can get depressed and alienated ... or we can be creative.
The Pope's virtual prayers are just the most vivid example of religious improvisation in the era of social estrangement and confinement. The faithful have already followed his advice and found creative solutions.
Thus, the Archbishop of Panama took off and blessed his small Central American nation from a helicopter. The faithful in Spain criticized religious music from their balconies during Holy Week.
The magnitude of the unfolding tragedy has seen a New York City cathedral replace rows of wooden seats with hospital beds in case the surrounding emergency rooms fill up to overflow.
The Catholic Church in the Philippines is urging the faithful not to kiss the cross. Its Orthodox counterpart in Greece is planning to hold mass behind closed doors for its Easter on April 19.
"Seven out of 10 Greeks enjoy roasting lamb for Easter ," Greek meat trader Angelos Asteriou told AFP in Paris .
That will not happen this year.
Jews around the world did their best to use Zoom or other video conferencing apps for on-site seder when the eight-day Passover holiday began on Wednesday night.
Westminster Abbey in London is following the technological trend by releasing Easter podcasts for the faithful of the Anglican Church.
And priests in France The Roman Catholic sanctuary in the southwestern city of Lourdes began broadcasting nine consecutive days of prayers on Sunday on Facebook Live and YouTube.
The pope himself has in previous years observed Holy Thursday service marking Christ's last supper by washing the feet of 12 inmates on the outskirts of Rome .
The virus has now made this impossible.
Instead, Francis prayed for the dozens of priests and health workers who died across Italy while caring for the sick since the outbreak began in the northern Mediterranean country in February.
They are the saints next door, the priests who gave their lives by serving, Francis said.
He invited five nurses and doctors to accompany him to the Good Friday processions to highlight the sacrifices of his profession during the past month.
Francis himself has reportedly been twice screened for COVID-19 since he had a cold in late February.
He told Catholic newspapers that people around the world could spiritually try to escape their confinement through introspection.
So: to be locked up, but longing, with that memory that longs and begets hope, said the Pope.
This is what will help us to escape from our confinement.