Pope marks 'Easter of solitude' in virus lockdown

VATICAN CITY, Holy See, April 13 ------ Pope Francis prayed for tens of thousands of 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 ceremony attended by just a handful of priests and a small choir that was spaced out across the expansive marble floor of Saint Peter's Basilica. The pandemic raging outside the Vatican's locked gates has killed more than 110,000 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 transformed 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," Francis said. "This disease has not only deprived us of human closeness, but also of the possibility of receiving in person the consolation that flows from the sacraments." A few priests also gathered at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem's Old City — under lockdown like the Vatican — to pray at the spot where Christians believe Jesus was crucified and resurrected on Easter. Most of the world's 1.3 billion Catholics were in forced confinement as the pope spoke and few of the world's churches were open on Christianity's holiest day. Bells rang across a still and completely silent Rome when mass began. Source: philstar.com