COVID-19: Vatican cancels open Easter celebrations

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COVID-19: Vatican cancels open Easter celebrations

Agency Reporter

Pope Francis will not lead any public celebration for Easter due to COVID-19 (Coronavirus), the Vatican said on Sunday, a move unprecedented in modern times.

“All the Liturgical Celebrations of Holy Week will take place without the physical presence of the faithful,’’ a statement from the Prefecture of the Pontifical Household said.

Before the statement was made public, the Nigerian Christian Pilgrims Commission (NCPC) said it was considering postponing the Easter pilgrim exercise to Israel due to the pandemic.

As of Sunday, the death toll from COVID-19 stood at 5,796 out of the 154,624 confirmed cases in 139 countries.

Vatican explained that celebrations will still take place, but in ways that have yet to be defined in accordance with anti-virus contagion measures.

Easter, which this year falls on April 12, is the most important Christian holiday, celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

There are several ceremonies leading up to it, during the so-called Holy Week.

One of the most solemn is a Good Friday evening procession by Rome’s Colosseum, the Way of the Cross, led by the Pope and attended by thousands of worshippers.

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Another key event is the Holy Thursday’s foot-washing ceremony, which Pope Francis has performed in the past in prisons, migrant detention centres and hospices for the disabled.

The Vatican’s decision “opens up an unprecedented scenario: rites with no people,’’ Massimo Faggioli, a professor of theology and religious studies at Villanova University in the United States, told dpa.

“Francis is facing a situation similar to predecessors, who were popes, while Rome and Italy were riven by war and general upheaval: just in the last two centuries, Pius IX, Benedict XV, Pius XII,’’ he added.

In his Sunday Angelus prayers, which have been broadcast online rather than delivered to crowds in St Peter’s Square since last week, Pope Francis sought to reassure the faithful.

“In this epidemic situation, in which we find ourselves living more or less isolated, we are invited to rediscover and explore the value of communion that unites all members of the Church,’’ he said.

“United with Christ we are never alone, but we are a single body.’’

Francis also thanked priests in Lombardy, the Italian region worst hit by the Coronavirus outbreak, for “inventing one thousand ways to stay close to their flock.’’

In Italy, where all church services are suspended, there have been reports about priests leading Mass via Instagram or driving around town reciting prayers through a loudspeaker.

Meanwhile, NCPC at the weekend said it was considering postponing the Easter pilgrimage to Israel due to COVID-19.

The consideration was made in Abuja, during the Board and Management retreat of the NCPC, which was aimed at discussing the operations of the Commission in 2020.

The chairman of the commission, Pastor Yomi Kasali, said that the commission was being proactive to consider the Easter operation due to the virus

He said: ‘’As a matter of fact, we have suspended Easter pilgrims exercise and a communique on the suspension would be issued, it has nothing to do with faith, we have to flow with the nation.

‘’The situation is beyond us and the president has to give us directives as well, we must do things for the interests of Nigerians only.

‘’For instance rome is on lock down. If the country we are visiting is on lock down, what can we do? We have to hold on till things improve.

‘’If Israel says don’t come due to the coronavirus disease, it doesn’t make sense that we start taking our people there. But, we will continue to monitor situations and outcomes would be communicated.”

COVID-19: Vatican cancels open Easter celebrations

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