VATICAN CITY- (Reuters) Pope Francis and Catholics around the world marked a solitary Easter Sunday, forced to celebrate the most joyful day in the Christian calendar amid reminders of the devastation wrought by the coronavirus pandemic.
Like pastors around the world, Francis instead celebrated Easter Mass inside the largely empty basilica, while the faithful watched on TV at home.
Rather than appearing on the basilica loggia to impart his blessing, he was to speak in front of the tomb of St Peter, underscoring the solitude confronting all of humanity amid lockdown orders and quarantines to prevent contagion.
It was a scene being repeated around the world, with the faithful either staying home or practicing social distancing in those churches where public masses were still being celebrated.
Normally, St Peter’s Square outside the church would be awash in fresh flowers on Easter Sunday, with tulips and orchids decorating the piazza’s promenade to underscore Easter’s message of life and rebirth following Christ’s crucifixion.
This year, however, the cobblestoned square was bare.
Police barricades ringed the piazza, blocking the tens of thousands who would normally flock to hear the pope deliver his noontime “Urbi et Orbi” speech and blessing “to the city and the world.”