Coronavirus: Easter Sunday under lockdown captured in pictures

Coronavirus: Easter Sunday under lockdown captured in pictures

Coronavirus: Easter Sunday under lockdown captured in pictures

The pope delivered his message from an nearly empty St Peter's Basilica, where surrounded by only his closest collaborators, he said that the Lord had not left alone those who were suffering amid the pandemic.

Not all churches in the United States, however, are closed this Easter Sunday due to the pandemic-an issue that has been the source of controversy as well as legal battles.

St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, where tens of thousands would normally gather to hear Pope Francis deliver his "Urbi et Orbi" speech and blessing "to the city and the world", was empty of crowds.

Pope Francis was set to break with centuries of tradition by taking his Easter mass online, with Saint Peter's Square, packed every year with worshippers, left deserted.

A journalist wearing a protective face mask outside St Peter's.

"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", he said.

The pope had earlier urged creativity to mark the holy weekend - a call that appears to have been met by some of the world's two billion-plus Christians.

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He urged the faithful to pray for the sick, the dead, the elderly and the alone. He expressed his closeness to the many victims of the disease and to the nurses and doctors who have put their life on the line in the service of others. For many remaining at home has been an opportunity to reflect, to withdraw from the frenetic pace of life, stay with loved ones and enjoy their company.

"In light of the present circumstances, may worldwide sanctions be relaxed, since these make it hard for countries on which they have been imposed to provide adequate support to their citizens, and may all nations be put in a position to meet the greatest needs of the moment through the reduction, if not the forgiveness, of the debt burdening the balance sheets of the poorest nations". For many, though, this is also a time of worry about an uncertain future, about jobs that are at risk and about other consequences of the current crisis, the pope added.

"The European Union is presently facing an epochal challenge, on which will depend not only its future but that of the whole world", the 83-year-old pontiff said in his address.

Francis recalled how Europe was able to recover and "rise again" from the deep divisions that provoked the Second World War.

"A world already faced with epochal challenges and now oppressed by a pandemic severely testing our whole human family", Mr Francis spoke of "the contagion of hope".

"It is more urgent than ever, especially in the present circumstances, that these rivalries do not regain force, but that all recognize themselves as part of a single family and support one another", he said.

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