VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis is celebrating solemn Holy Week ceremonies for a second straight year without the usual throngs of pilgrims and tourists, kept away by pandemic safety concerns and travel restrictions.
Francis traditionally leads a Palm Sunday procession through St. Peter’s Square and then celebrates an outdoor Mass for tens of thousands of faithful.
But Francis led a Palm Sunday service this year inside St. Peter’s Basilica just as he did last spring. That was just weeks after the COVID-19 outbreak erupted in Italy, which was the first country in the West to be hit by the pandemic.
Only about 120 faithful, including nuns and a few families, attended and were socially-distanced. They wore protective masks as did participants in the procession of 30 red-robed cardinals, but Francis was maskless.