Pope Condemns ‘Hell’ Of Migrant Detention Camps In Libya

This photo taken and released on April 13, 2020, by the Vatican Media shows Pope Francis delivering his message during a private Angelus prayer live broadcast from the library of the Apostolic Palace in the Vatican on Easter Monday, during the lockdown aimed at curbing the spread of the COVID-19 infection, caused by the novel coronavirus. Handout / VATICAN MEDIA / AFP.

 

Pope Francis on Wednesday condemned the “hellish” migrant detention camps in Libya on the seventh anniversary of his trip to Lampedusa, where many of those fleeing the country for Europe by sea land.

“The war is indeed horrible, we know that, but you cannot imagine the hell that people are living there, in that detention camp. And those people came only with hope of crossing the sea,” he said during a mass at his residence at the Vatican.

In July 2013, the newly elected Pope Francis chose the tiny Mediterranean island for his first trip outside of Rome, where he denounced the “globalisation of indifference” towards migrants.

“I remember that day, seven years ago, in the very south of Europe, on that island…,” he said.

“A number of people told me their stories and all that they had gone through to get there.

“There were interpreters present. One person was telling me about terrible things in his language, and the interpreter seemed to translate well, but this person spoke so long and the translation was brief,” he said.

Francis later found out the translator had “given me the ‘distilled’ version.

“This is what is happening today with Libya: they are giving us a ‘distilled version’,” he said.

Francis regularly expresses solidarity with migrants who cross the Mediterranean and mourns those who lose their lives in the attempt.

He has repeatedly slammed the refusal of richer nations to welcome the refugees.

AFP

Pope Hails UN Global Ceasefire Move To Fight Pandemic

This photo taken and released on April 13, 2020, by the Vatican Media shows Pope Francis delivering his message during a private Angelus prayer live broadcast from the library of the Apostolic Palace in the Vatican on Easter Monday, during the lockdown aimed at curbing the spread of the COVID-19 infection, caused by the novel coronavirus. Handout / VATICAN MEDIA / AFP.

 

Pope Francis on Sunday threw his support behind a UN Security Council resolution calling for a halt to conflicts to facilitate the fight against the coronavirus pandemic.

The UN Security Council on Wednesday unanimously adopted the resolution after more than three months of negotiations calling for “an immediate cessation of hostilities in all situations” on the Security Council’s agenda.

“The request for a global and immediate ceasefire, which would allow that peace and security necessary to provide the needed humanitarian assistance is commendable,” the pope said after his weekly Angelus prayer at St Peter’s in Rome.

“I hope that this decision will be implemented effectively and promptly for the good of the many people who are suffering.

“May this Security Council resolution become a courageous first step towards a peaceful future.”

The resolution was the Security Council’s first statement on the pandemic and its first real action since the outbreak started.

Repeatedly blocked by China and the United States, which opposed a reference in the text to the World Health Organization (WHO), the resolution aims to support an appeal in March by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres for a global ceasefire.

It “calls upon all parties to armed conflicts to engage immediately in a durable humanitarian pause for at least 90 consecutive days, in order to enable the safe, unhindered and sustained delivery of humanitarian assistance”.

AFP

Pope Francis Calls For World To Push For End To Libya Violence

Pope Francis leaves at the end of a Holy Mass on the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, on June 14, 2020 at St. Peter’s Basilica in The Vatican, as the city-state eases its lockdown aimed at curbing the spread of the COVID-19 infection, caused by the novel coronavirus. (Photo by Tiziana FABI / AFP)

 

Pope Francis on Sunday urged international bodies as well as political and military leaders to stop the violence in Libya and to also end the plight of migrants, refugees and others trapped there.

Speaking from a window at his Vatican residence on St Peter’s Square, the pope told the faithful he included his concerns in his prayers over recent days.

“I am following the dramatic situation in Libya with great apprehension,” he said.

“I urge international bodies and those who have political and military responsibilities to recommence with conviction and resolve the search for a path towards an end to the violence, leading to peace, stability and unity in the country.”

The pope also said he prayed for “the thousands of migrants, refugees, asylum seekers and internally displaced persons in Libya”.

Alluding apparently to the coronavirus pandemic also hitting Libya, he said “the health situation has aggravated the already precarious conditions in which they find themselves, making them more vulnerable to forms of exploitation and violence.”

He added “there is cruelty”, urging the international community to take “their plight to heart” and find ways and means “to provide them with the protection they need, a dignified condition and a future of hope.”

READ ALSO: Second Wave Fears As China Reports More New Infections

The oil-rich North African nation has been mired in chaos and violence since a NATO-backed uprising toppled and killed longtime dictator Moamer Kadhafi in 2011.

The UN-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) controls the west, including the capital Tripoli, while military strongman Khalifa Haftar holds the east and some of the far-flung oases and oilfields that dot the south.

War and division are now weakening Libya’s fight against the novel coronavirus, with the government struggling to deal with an outbreak deep in the desert south.

AFP

Pope Says Worst Of COVID-19 Is Over, Vatican Clear Of Cases

This photo taken and released on April 13, 2020, by the Vatican Media shows Pope Francis delivering his message during a private Angelus prayer live broadcast from the library of the Apostolic Palace in the Vatican on Easter Monday, during the lockdown aimed at curbing the spread of the COVID-19 infection, caused by the novel coronavirus. Handout / VATICAN MEDIA / AFP.

 

Pope Francis said on Sunday the worst of the coronavirus crisis was over in Italy, addressing the faithful for the first time in Saint Peter’s Square since the health emergency began.

The pontiff’s address came a day after the Vatican said there were no more cases of COVID-19 within its population.

“Your presence in the square is a sign that in Italy the acute phase of the epidemic is over,” Francis told those assembled for his weekly Angelus prayer.

“But be careful… do not celebrate victory too soon,” he added, warning of the need to continue following social distancing rules.

Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni said in a statement late Saturday that the last person found to have been infected with the coronavirus in recent weeks had tested negative.

“Today there are no more cases of coronavirus among employees of the Vatican,” or within Vatican City, he said.

READ ALSO: Britain To Reopen Places Of Worship On June 15

Twelve people in total within the Vatican had been infected by the virus.

The Argentine pope expressed his sympathy for those in some Latin American countries like Brazil and Peru, which have been hit hard by the coronavirus.

“Unfortunately in other countries — I am thinking of some of them — the virus continues to claim many victims,” he said.

“Last Friday, in one country, one person died every minute! Terrible. I wish to express my closeness to those populations, to the sick and their families, and to all those who care for them,” he said.

During Italy’s two-month lockdown which began in March, Francis continued to address the faithful via videoconference from within a chapel within his Vatican residence.

The COVID-19 epidemic has killed nearly 34,000 people in Italy, but experts believe it has now been mostly been controlled.

AFP

Pope Fights Corruption With New Vatican Tenders Law

Pope Francis delivers a homily during Palm Sunday mass behind closed doors at St. Peter’s Basilica mass on April 5, 2020 in The Vatican, during the lockdown aimed at curbing the spread of the COVID-19 infection, caused by the novel coronavirus. Alberto PIZZOLI / POOL / AFP.

 

Pope Francis stepped up his battle against corruption in the Vatican Monday with a new law aimed at boosting transparency in tenders and cutting costs as a post-coronavirus recession hits.

Convicted mobsters and those guilty of tax fraud are among a list of undesirables now unable to pocket contracts.

The Argentine pontiff was elected in 2013 to put the Vatican’s finances in order, but has met resistance from certain ministries reluctant to relinquish control over funds or shine a light on internal workings.

The law, published Monday, is the result of four years of work and brings the Vatican into line with international standards.

It is “a not insignificant turn of events,” Vatican expert Iacopo Scaramuzzi said on Twitter.

“It puts an end to the firmly established Vatican habit… of entrusting external contracts to relatives and friends of friends,” he added.

The new standards of “transparency, control and competition in the procedures for awarding public contracts” will centralise expenditures, currently very fragmented, under two administrative bodies.

READ ALSO: Philippines Capital Reopens Despite Rise In COVID-19 Cases

The changes will “significantly reduce the danger of corruption,” Francis said in his written introduction to the law.

While the days of suspected mafia involvement in the Vatican’s finances are long gone, the seat of the Catholic Church has found it difficult to shake off scandals completely.

A recent investigation uncovered possible corruption linked to Vatican real estate investments in London.

As well as excluding people convicted of ties to organised crime groups from bids, the law says the Vatican’s selection for tenders must comply with ethical principles and avoid conflicts of interest.

Giuseppe Pignatone, a leading Italian anti-mafia expert appointed by the Pope in October to head up the Vatican’s court, said the law aimed to achieve “significant savings” through competitive bidding.

“The theme of cutting expenses is very topical and important at this time — unfortunately destined to continue — of serious economic difficulties for the whole world, but also for the Holy See and the Vatican City State,” he said.

AFP

Pope Calls For End To ‘Pandemic Of Poverty’ After COVID-19 Outbreak

This photo taken and released on April 13, 2020, by the Vatican Media shows Pope Francis delivering his message during a private Angelus prayer live broadcast from the library of the Apostolic Palace in the Vatican on Easter Monday, during the lockdown aimed at curbing the spread of the COVID-19 infection, caused by the novel coronavirus. Handout / VATICAN MEDIA / AFP.

 

“Everything will be different” after the coronavirus pandemic, Pope Francis said Saturday, calling for a fairer society and action to “end the pandemic of poverty in the world”.

Speaking in Spanish in a video message to mark the feast of Pentecost, the pontiff said there was a duty to build a new reality, particularly for the poorest.

“Once we emerge from this pandemic, we will not be able to keep doing what we were doing, and as we were doing it. No, everything will be different,” he said.

“From the great trials of humanity — among them this pandemic — one emerges better or worse. You don’t emerge the same.

“I ask this of you: how do you want to come out of it? Better or worse?” said the 83-year-old Argentinian.

The pope led a prayer in the Vatican gardens for all those affected by the pandemic, which has killed nearly 370,000 people worldwide and devastated the global economy.

He will also address the faithful on Sunday from his window overlooking Saint Peter’s Square for the first time since March, as the city-state further eases its virus lockdown.

READ ALSO: EU Tells UK Post-Brexit Deal Vital During COVID-19 Crisis

For weeks his traditional Angelus prayer has been live-streamed each weekend to the world from inside the Apostolic Palace.

People need to open their minds and hearts to learn the central lesson from this crisis, he said on Saturday, declaring: “We are one humanity.”

“We know it, we knew it, but this pandemic that we are living through has made us experience it in a much more dramatic way,” he said.

“All the suffering will be of no use if we do not build together a more just, more equitable, more Christian society, not in name but in reality.”

AFP

Pope Francis Prays For EU Unity Ahead Of Coronavirus Conference

This photo taken and released on April 13, 2020, by the Vatican Media shows Pope Francis delivering his message during a private Angelus prayer live broadcast from the library of the Apostolic Palace in the Vatican. Handout / VATICAN MEDIA / AFP.

 

Pope Francis extended a prayer Wednesday for European unity ahead of a video conference of EU leaders aimed at addressing the long-term economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

The 27 leaders of the European Union will try again Thursday to forge a comprehensive plan that can help millions of families recover from weeks-long national lockdowns.

The Argentine-born pontiff urged the leaders to put aside their differences during “this tragic pandemic”.

“Let us pray for Europe today so that it can have the fraternal unity that the founding fathers of the European Union dreamed of,” Francis said in a livestreamed message from the Vatican.

READ ALSO: South Africa To Deploy More Troops For COVID-19 Lockdown

The EU leaders have been unable to agree on the size and financing of the economic recovery fund.

“Only together… can we overcome global challenges,” the pope said.

AFP

EASTER: Pope Prays For Lockdown Victims Of Domestic Abuse

This photo taken and released on April 13, 2020, by the Vatican Media shows Pope Francis delivering his message during a private Angelus prayer live broadcast from the library of the Apostolic Palace in the Vatican on Easter Monday, during the lockdown aimed at curbing the spread of the COVID-19 infection, caused by the novel coronavirus. Handout / VATICAN MEDIA / AFP.

 

Pope Francis prayed Monday for the growing number of women subjected to domestic abuse while living under coronavirus lockdown.

The Argentine pontiff livestreamed an Easter Monday prayer from his private library as the Vatican and Italy entered a second month of restrictions on most outdoor activities.

Worries about domestic abuse have spread across the world as nations force billions to stay at home to stop the spread of a disease that has officially killed nearly 115,000 people.

The pope offered a prayer to the “many mothers and sisters who find themselves locked in the house with the whole family, with children, with the elderly and the disabled.

“Sometimes they are at risk of being subjected to violence, for a coexistence in which they carry too great a burden,” Francis said.

“We pray for them, that God may give them strength and that our communities can support them together with their families.”

Countries from Australia to France have seen surges in the number of domestic violence cases reported to the police.

READ ALSO: Pope Marks ‘Easter Of Solitude’ In Virus Lockdown

But worries persist that many cases of abuse go unreported and that the true scale of the violence is unknown.

Italy’s interior ministry is using a phone app to help geo-locate reports of domestic violence.

The government has also allocated $30 million euros ($32.8 million) to help shelter women victims of domestic abuse.

AFP

Pope Marks ‘Easter Of Solitude’ In Virus Lockdown

This photo taken and handout on April 12, 2020 by the Vatican Media shows Pope Francis (C) deliver his Urbi et Orbi message following Easter Sunday Mass on April 12, 2020 behind closed doors at St. Peter’s Basilica in The Vatican, during the country’s lockdown aimed at curbing the spread of the COVID-19 infection, caused by the novel coronavirus. Handout / VATICAN MEDIA / AFP.

 

Pope Francis offered a prayer for coronavirus victims in an unprecedented livestream Easter Sunday message delivered from a hauntingly empty Vatican to a world under lockdown.

The 83-year-old pontiff spoke softly at a solemn ceremony attended by just a handful of priests and a small choir that was spaced out across Saint Paul’s Cathedral’s expansive marble floor.

The pandemic raging outsides the Vatican’s locked gates has killed more than 109,000 people and left billions confined to their homes.

The pope’s message was livestreamed for the first time — a bow to technology in the face of a new illness that has changed the shape of society and altered the way religion is observed.

“For many, this is an Easter of solitude lived amid the sorrow and hardship that the pandemic is causing, from physical suffering to economic difficulties,” he said.

A handful of priests and a few faithful also gathered at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem’s Old City — locked down like the Vatican — to say prayers at the spot where Christians believe Jesus was crucified and resurrected on Easter.

READ ALSO: British PM Boris Johnson ‘Discharged From Hospital’ – Downing Street

The majority of the world’s 1.3 billion Catholics were in forced confinement as the pope spoke and almost all of the world’s churches were shut on Christianity’ holiest day.

– ‘Not a time for division’ –

The pope pleaded with the world’s leaders to put aside their political differences and call back their armies during a global health emergency of a magnitude not seen in 100 years.

“This is not a time for division,” Francis said.

“May Christ enlighten all who have responsibility in conflicts, that they may have the courage to support the appeal for an immediate global ceasefire in all corners of the world.”

He said health considerations required world powers to ease crippling economic sanctions imposed against their adversaries — a possible reference to those weighing over pandemic-hit Iran.

“In light of the present circumstances, may international sanctions be relaxed, since these make it difficult for countries on which they have been imposed to provide adequate support to their citizens,” Francis said.

He called for a “reduction, if not the forgiveness, of the debt burdening the balance sheets of the poorest nations” and for European nations to show the same “solidarity” they did in the wake of World War II.

“After the Second World War, this beloved continent was able to rise again,” he said.

“The European Union is presently facing an epochal challenge, on which will depend not only its future but that of the whole world.”

And he offered a prayer for those killed and those mourning the victims of a disease that spread from China to Europe in February and has now encircled the world.

“Today my thoughts turn in the first place to the many who have been directly affected by the coronavirus: the sick, those who have died and family members who mourn the loss of their loved ones, to whom, in some cases, they were unable even to bid a final farewell,” he said.

– Religious improvisation –

The pope’s virtual Easter Sunday message was the most vivid example of religious improvisation in the age of social distancing and confinement.

The faithful have already followed his advice and found creative solutions.

The archbishop of Panama took to the air and blessed his tiny Central American nation from a helicopter.

The faithful in Spain blasted religious music from their balconies during Holy Week.

Easter Sunday itself saw some faithful leave wreaths of flowers outside of the locked doors of churches from where festive processions had departed in previous years in the southwestern Spanish city of Seville.

A parish near the Philippines’ capital Manila pasted the empty pews with family photos that the faithful had emailed to the priest.

The Orthodox Church in Greece is planning to hold mass behind closed doors for its Easter on April 19.

Jews across the world did their best by using Zoom or other video-conferencing apps to “seder-in-place” when the eight-day Passover holiday started on Wednesday evening.

State television in Lebanon broadcast mass under lockdown from an empty church north of Beirut.

Catholics in neighbouring Syria — where celebrations had continued in Christian quarters of Damascus despite years of agonising war — stayed home this time because of the virus, but many watched a Facebook Live celebration by the country’s patriarch.

Sri Lankan Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith told a live mass broadcast that the southeast Asian country’s Roman Catholic Church had forgiven suicide bombers behind attacks that killed at least 279 people last Easter.

“We offered love to the enemies who tried to destroy us,” he said.

Westminster Abbey in London is following the trend by releasing Easter podcasts for the faithful of the Anglican Church.

And priests at France’s Roman Catholic shrine in the southwestern town of Lourdes were relaying nine consecutive days of prayers on Sunday by Facebook Live and YouTube.

‘Saints next door’

The lockdown forced the pope to improvise throughout Holy Week.

In previous years he had observed Holy Thursday service marking Christ’s last supper by washing the feet of 12 inmates on the outskirts of Rome.

The virus made that impossible this year.

Francis instead said a prayer for the dozens of priests and health workers who have died across Italy while attending to the sick.

“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 for the Good Friday processions in order to highlight their profession’s sacrifices over the past month.

Francis himself has reportedly been tested twice for COVID-19 since coming down with a cold at the end of February.

AFP

EASTER: Pope Offers Prayer For COVID-19 Sick

This photo handed-out on April 12, 2020, by the Vatican Media, shows Pope Francis read scriptures by the “Salus Populi Romani” Byzantine icon of the Madonna and Christ Child (L) during Easter Sunday Mass on April 12, 2020, behind closed doors at St. Peter’s Basilica in The Vatican, during the country’s lockdown aimed at curbing the spread of the COVID-19 infection, caused by the novel coronavirus. Handout / VATICAN MEDIA / AFP.

 

 

Pope Francis offered an Easter Sunday prayer for those killed and suffering from the novel coronavirus that has killed more than 100,000 people worldwide.

“Today my thoughts turn in the first place to the many who have been directly affected by the coronavirus: the sick, those who have died and family members who mourn the loss of their loved ones, to whom, in some cases, they were unable even to bid a final farewell,” the pope said in a live-streamed message from an empty Saint Peter’s Basilica.

Pope Francis on Sunday also called for the reduction or forgiveness of the debt of poor nations suffering in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.

READ ALSO: COVID-19: New York City To Keep Schools Closed Till End Of 2020, As Politicians Squabble

In his live-streamed message, he said: “May all nations be put in a position to meet the greatest needs of the moment through the reduction, if not the forgiveness, of the debt burdening the balance sheets of the poorest nations”.

The Head of the Church used his Easter sermon to also called for an “immediate” ceasefire in global conflict and urged European nations to show “solidarity” in the face of a coronavirus pandemic that has claimed more than 109,000 lives worldwide.

“May Christ our peace enlighten all who have a responsibility in conflicts, that they may have the courage to support the appeal for an immediate global ceasefire in all corners of the world,” the Pope said.

Francis added that it was time for Europe, which he described as his “beloved continent”, to “rise again, thanks to a concrete spirit of solidarity” similar to that shown after World War II.

Pope To Livestream Easter Mass To locked Down World

This photo taken and handout by the Vatican Media on April 11, 2020 shows Pope Francis holding the Holy Book of Prayers during Easter’s Holy Saturday Vigil held behind closed doors at St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican on April 11, 2020 during the lockdown aimed at curbing the spread of the COVID-19 infection, caused by the novel coronavirus. Handout / VATICAN MEDIA / AFP / VATICAN.

 

Pope Francis will break with centuries of tradition and livestream Easter Sunday mass to allow the world’s 1.3 billion Catholics to celebrate their holiest holiday under a coronavirus lockdown.

Fear and confusion in the face of a disease whose official death toll has soared past 100,000 — but whose real one is feared to be higher still — are reshaping society and transforming the way religion is observed.

Even such hallowed traditions as the pope’s messages to the faithful on Saint Peter’s Square have been replaced by prayers that Francis reads into a camera from the seclusion of his private library.

His only audience is the camera and the 83-year-old Argentine has admitted that the entire experience makes him feel “caged”.

– Life in confinement –

Francis cut a lonely but striking figure when he slowly entered a dark and starkly empty Vatican square in his white robe for a torch-lit Good Friday procession.

It had taken place around the Roman Colosseum in the presence of at least 20,000 faithful for more than 50 years.

READ ALSO: EASTER: Pope Offers Prayer For COVID-19 Sick

But Rome and the rest of Italy 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’s entrance is now sealed off by armed police wearing facemasks and rubber gloves.

The pope has openly admitted that he was struggling 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 several Catholic newspapers this week.

“We can either get depressed and alienated … or we can get creative.”

– Religious improvisation –

The pope’s virtual prayers are just the most vivid example of religious improvisation in the age of social distancing and confinement. The faithful have already followed his advice and found creative solutions.

The archbishop of Panama took to the air and blessed his tiny Central American nation from a helicopter. The faithful in Spain blasted religious music from their balconies during Holy Week.

The scale of the unfolding tragedy has seen a New York City cathedral replace rows of wooden seats with hospital beds in case the surrounding emergency wards fill to overflowing.

In the Philippines churches across the overwhelmingly Catholic nation were shuttered due to the virus, but some have done their best to adapt to the unprecedented lockdown.

A parish north of the capital Manila had worshippers email to the church photos of their families, more than 1,000 of which are now pasted to pews for Easter.

“Those photos are the representations of the people who are watching and attending mass through livestreaming, so we also feel their presence virtually,” said Reverend Father Mark Christopher De Leon, of the Holy Rosary Parish Church in Angeles City.

Easter is normally greeted with parades, church services and large family parties in the Philippines but as the country battles the contagion those events were cancelled in major cities and severely curtailed in the countryside.

The Orthodox Church 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’s not happening this year.”

Jews across the world did their best by using Zoom or other video conferencing apps to “seder-in-place” when the eight-day Passover holiday started on Wednesday evening.

Westminster Abbey in London is following the technological trend by releasing Easter podcasts for the faithful of the Anglican Church.

And priests at France’s Roman Catholic shrine in the southwestern town of Lourdes were relaying nine consecutive days of prayers on Sunday by Facebook Live and YouTube.

In Colombo, Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith told an Easter mass broadcast live from a television studio without an audience that Sri Lanka’s Roman Catholic Church had forgiven suicide bombers behind attacks that killed at least 279 people last Easter.

“We offered love to the enemies who tried to destroy us,” he said.

– ‘Saints next door’ –

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.

Francis instead said a prayer for the dozens of priests and health workers who have died across Italy while attending to the sick since the outbreak began in the Mediterranean country’s north 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 for the Good Friday processions in order to highlight their profession’s sacrifices over the past month.

Francis himself has reportedly been tested twice for COVID-19 since coming down with a cold at the end of February.

He told the Catholic newspapers that people across the world could try to spiritually escape their confinement through introspection.

“So: to be in lockdown, but yearning, with that memory that yearns and begets hope,” the pope said.

“This is what will help us escape our confinement.”

AFP

Pope Francis Prostrates On Floor For Good Friday

Pope Francis lies down in prayer prior to celebrate Good Friday Mass for the Passion of Christ, at St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican on April 10, 2020. Andrew Medichini / POOL / AFP

 

Pope Francis prostrated on the floor of an empty St. Peter’s Basilica on Friday (April 10) to pray at a scaled-down “Passion of the Lord” service commemorating Jesus’ last hours of life and his crucifixion.

The service is one of the rare times when the pope does not deliver a homily, leaving it to Father Raniero Cantalamessa, the preacher of the papal household.

“The pandemic of Coronavirus has abruptly roused us from the greatest danger individuals and humanity have always been susceptible to: the delusion of omnipotence,” Cantalamessa said.

 

 

“It took merely the smallest and most formless element of nature, a virus, to remind us that we are mortal, that military power and technology are not sufficient to save us,” he said.

The service is usually attended by cardinals, bishops and some 10,000 faithful.

But it was scaled back because of the coronavirus restrictions and attended by only about two dozen people, including papal aides reading from scriptures and a smaller than usual choir.

 

 

In another change from the usual ritual dictated by the coronavirus outbreak, only the pope kissed a crucifix at the end of the service. Usually, it is also kissed by every cardinal, archbishop and bishop in the church.

Read Also: Lagos Records Another COVID-19 Death

Cantalamessa said the pandemic, which has killed nearly 19,000 people in Italy, should be a spur for people to appreciate what really matters in life.

“Let us not allow so much pain, so many deaths, and so much heroic engagement on the part of health workers to have been in vain. Returning to the way things were is the ‘recession’ we should fear the most,” Cantalamessa said.

 

 

On Friday night, the pope was leading a Via Crucis (Way of the Cross) procession on the basilica’s outdoor steps in an empty St. Peter’s Square.

It will be the first time the procession is not being held at Rome’s Colosseum since the modern-day tradition was re-introduced by Pope Paul VI in 1964.