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In another closed, divided Easter, a tired Italy cannot escape the virus

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There will be no celebration, said a parish priest, in an audio message sent to the community.

This was supposed to be the point when Europe had defeated the virus, allowing a return to half-normalcy for Catholics the holiest week. But Italy, like most of Europe, is still plagued by infections, and the Easter mood this year is not felt anywhere near the holidays. Whether through blockages, illness, or canceled church ceremonies, the pandemic is still finding ways to intervene.

There is a sense of psychological fatigue, said Bishop Domenico Pompili, who had to try to reorganize Masses because of infected clergy. We could never have imagined such a permanent state of uncertainty.

For Catholics around the world, this is the second Easter to occur amid the pandemic. And while the end point is emerging in some countries, like the United States, which have competed ahead with vaccinations, the picture is different in Europe, where spread has been extremely slow, and half the continent nations are in some form of blockage.

This has made this Easter strange perhaps even harder for the stomach than the last. As the collective sense of fear has diminished, people are struggling instead of frustration, economic pain, and constant isolation. The restrictions are not nearly as strict as those of a year ago in part because people know more about the most dangerous behaviors, but the holidays still come with a list of confusing rules. In Italy, two adults can visit family or friends; three can not.

In Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel, noting the rise in infections, said Easter this year should be quiet. In Paris, thousands of officers were deployed to enforce new restrictions, including stopping movement for more than six miles from home.

People are so tired, said Beatrice Paparo, 28, on the streets of Rome, where people were lining up this weekend for quick rehearsals in preparation to see relatives provided they live in the same region. But Paparos’s parents live in another region and crossing the border into the family is still banned.

So good to be alone, said Paparo, who was planning a meal with her boyfriend. For a second year.

This year, at least we can walk around the city, said her boyfriend, Lorenzo Piscitelli, 29. But you still split up.

At the Vatican, where Pope Francis usually delivers his Easter speech at one gathers the crowd of pilgrims, instead, the Pope spoke within St. Peter’s Basilica, of a much smaller crowd, distancing themselves from society.

The Easter message does not offer us a mirage or reveal to us a magical formula, the Pope said. It does not indicate an escape from the difficult situation we are experiencing. The pandemic is still widespread, while the social and economic crisis remains severe.

He called vaccines an essential tool in this war and urged nations to commit to overcoming delays in vaccine delivery and facilitating their delivery, especially to poorer countries.

Churches across Italy were open to Easter Sunday a change from last year, but now that a deadly and more transmissible variant has gained dominance across the continent, the risks remain high. The death rate of European Trade Unions is now more than twice as high as that of the United States. In Italy, the number of patients in intensive care beds is higher than when the country started distributing vaccines three months ago.

And payment has taken many forms. On Saturday the newspaper La Repubblica, a headline on the front page mentioned that Easter-related consumption was down 40 percent, compared to 2019. Another major newspaper, La Stampa, showed food bank videos line, coming down the block in Milan.

We have all experienced weaknesses. This is a fact, said Father Gabriele Cimarelli, a missionary priest in the city of Parma.

The Xaverian missionary community where Cimarelli lives was particularly devastated. Last year, during the initial wave, 18 members of about a third of the religious community were killed. Cimarelli fell ill and survived, but only after experiencing oxygen deprivation and delirium.

This year, shortly before Easter, Cimarelli said, the surviving missionaries held a memorial service. Their goal was to invite family members of the dead, but coronavirus restrictions made it impossible.

People from other regions and cities are not allowed to come here, Cimarelli said. So it was a partial reminder.

He said Easter, with its renewal message, made her feel a little hopeful. Hed was vaccinated just like the other survivors.

We need to see the future, Cimarelli said. But we will not be like before.

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