Pope Francis has urged people to maintain hope even through the “dark months” of the coronavirus pandemic while celebrating a scaled-back Easter vigil service in St. Peter’s Basilica.Key points:
Only about 200 masked people were allowed to attend Saturday’s service, which marks the period between Christ’s crucifixion and his resurrection on Easter Sunday.
For the second year in a row, the Vatican cut out the traditional sacrament of baptism for a handful of adults.
This year’s vigil service also started earlier than usual to respect Italy’s 10:00pm COVID-19 curfew.
The service began with the pope lighting a single candle in the darkened Basilica and then sharing its flame with others until the pews slowly begin to twinkle and the Basilica’s lights are turned on.
In his homily, Pope Francis said Easter offers a message of hope and new beginnings.
“In these dark months of the pandemic, let us listen to the risen Lord as he invites us to begin anew and never lose hope,” he said.
“It is always possible to begin anew, because there is a new life that God can awaken in us in spite of all our failures.”
Pope Francis limped considerably through the service, in a sign that he is suffering through a prolonged bout of sciatica nerve pain.
On Sunday, Pope Francis will preside over Easter Mass before a similarly small group and deliver his traditional “Urbi et Orbi” (to the city and the world) blessing.
Usually the Easter Mass and blessing is celebrated before tens of thousands of people in St. Peter’s Square.