VATICAN CITY (AP) – Christendom’s happiest feast day was celebrated around the world with devotees sitting distant from each other on benches and singing “Hallelujah” choirs through blankets facial expressions on a second Easter Sunday conditioned by pandemic precautions.
From Protestant churches in South Korea to St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican, worshipers have followed national or local regulations aimed at preventing transmission of the coronavirus.
In a hospital in the Lombardy region of Italy, where the pandemic first broke out in the West in February 2020, a hospital offered a traditional Easter cake in the shape of a dove symbolizing peace to everyone who made the queue to receive a COVID-19 vaccine. Many of those who came were 80 years old and were accompanied by adult children.
In Jerusalem, air travel restrictions and quarantine regulations have prevented foreign pilgrims from visiting religious sites during Holy Week, which culminates with Easter celebrations.
Inside St. Peter’s Basilica, Pope Francis sprinkled incense near an icon of Jesus and said, “May the joy of Easter extend to the whole world.”
The 200 or so faithful allowed to attend seemed lost in the cavernous cathedral. Normally, thousands of people attended the popular service and a crowd gathered outside in St. Peter’s Square, with over 100,000 people sometimes gathering to receive the Pope’s special Easter blessing after Mass.
But this year, like last year, crowds are prohibited from assembling in Italy and the Vatican. Thus, Francis scheduled his Easter talk at noon on world affairs to be delivered from inside the basilica.
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In an attempt to curb the weeks of growing infections, the Italian government has ordered people to stay home for the three-day weekend except for essential errands like grocery shopping or exercise. Prime Minister Mario Draghi made a concession. allowing one visit to family or friends per day in the areas of origin of residents during the long weekend, which includes the little national holiday of Easter on Monday.
In Jerusalem, the Easter service at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher was celebrated by Latin Patriarch Pierbattista, the oldest Catholic cleric in the Holy Land. The site of the Old City of Jerusalem is where many Christians believe Jesus was crucified, buried, and raised from the dead.
Israel has launched one of the most successful vaccination campaigns in the world, allowing the country to reopen restaurants, hotels and religious sites. Israel captured the Old City, which is home to the holy sites of the three Abrahamic religions, in a 1967 war and then annexed it in a move unrecognized by the international community.
In South Korea, Yoido Full Gospel Church, the largest Protestant church in the country, allowed only about 2,000 church members to attend the Easter service, or about 17% of the capacity of the main building in South Korea. the church. Masked church members sang hymns, applauded and prayed as the service was broadcast online and on Christian TV channels.
Seoul’s Myeongdong Catholic Cathedral, South Korea’s largest Catholic church, limited Mass attendance to 20 percent of capacity and broadcast the Easter service live on YouTube.
In the Puglia region in southern Italy, the governor and many mayors urged the faithful to stay at home and watch Mass on TV. The region is one of many regions in Italy with the most severe ‘red zone’ restrictions due to the rate of COVID-19 infection.
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Attending a Saturday evening Easter Vigil Mass is a popular practice for many in Italy. But with the nation under a 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew, churches have pushed back traditional tee times by a few hours. Church bells in Italy summoned people to services unusually early, ringing before sunset in some places.
A similar scenario has unfolded in France, which is reeling from an appalling increase in COVID-19 cases overtaking hospitals already under strain. Some French churches held their traditional Easter services at midnight just before dawn on Sunday instead of Saturday evening due to a national curfew from 7 p.m. to 6 a.m.
AP journalists from around the world contributed.
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