VATICAN CITY The most joyous Christian holiday of Christianity was celebrated all over the world with believers divided into groups and into the Hallelujah singing choir through face masks on a second Easter Sunday marked by pandemic precaution.
From large Roman Catholic cathedrals to Protestant churches, worshipers followed the coronavirus regulations. In some European countries, citizens lined up at Easter for their turn to get a COVID-19 vaccine.
In the Lombardy region of Italy, where the pandemic first broke out in the West, a hospital gave him a traditional pigeon-shaped Easter cake that symbolized peace for anyone waiting to be vaccinated. Many who came were in their 80s.
A football team in Lyon, France, opened its stadium as a vaccination center for the long holiday weekend. About 9,000 people were expected to get their shots there within three days as the French government tries to speed up vaccinations amid a new outbreak of infections.
In the Holy Land, travel restrictions and quarantine regulations prevented foreign pilgrims from flocking to religious sites in Jerusalem during Holy Week, which culminates in Easter celebrations. Pope Francis complained that the pandemic had prevented several church entrances from attending services.
In St. Peter’s Basilica, 200 or more faithful allowed to attend seemed lost in the cave cathedral. Normally, thousands would be at the mass celebrated by Francis, and more than 100.00 sometimes gathered outside in St. Peter’s Square. Peters to receive his Easter blessing afterwards.
But this year, as in 2020, crowds are banned from gathering in Italy and the Vatican. Francesco delivered his Easter noon speech on world affairs from within the basilica, using the occasion to appeal again for vaccines to reach the poorest countries.
The pope looked tired as he noted that pandemic measures have affected religious holiday traditions and kept some loyalists out of public worship.
We pray that these restrictions, as well as all restrictions on freedom of worship and religion worldwide, can be lifted and everyone allowed to pray and praise God freely, Francis said.
In Syria, where a national vaccination program has not yet begun, church benefactors at Our Lady of Damascus Church prayed for a way out of the economic and political crisis, only exacerbated by the pandemic.
We came to church for Easter so to get rid of the pandemic we are in, Bassam Assaf said. Of course, we are not afraid of the coronavirus. It is the reality we face, but it cannot stop us from coming and praying to God to bring us out of this ordeal and help the world.
A service at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in the Old City of Jerusalem was celebrated by the senior Roman Catholic clergyman in the Holy Land. This is where many Christians believe that Jesus was crucified, buried and resurrected from the dead. The successful Israels vaccination campaign has allowed the reopening of many countries, including religious ones.
The pandemic kept the Seville Brotherhood of the Holy Resurrection from sending its ornate Easter swim, holding a tall statue of Jesus, through the streets of the Spanish city. Instead, the Brotherhood posted old videos and photos from their last procession, two years ago.
Some Pentecostal Christians in South Africa canceled a three-day retreat starting on Good Friday. In the hills overlooking Soweto, a Johannesburg settlement, the Apostolic Pentecostals gathered in small groups on Sunday to mark Easter.
In South Korea, Yoido All Gospel Church, the country’s largest Protestant church, allowed only about 2,000 people to participate in the Easter service, or about 17% of the capacity of the main building. Masked worshipers sang hymns and prayed as the service aired online and on Christian television channels.
In order to reduce the weeks of adult infections, the Italian government ordered people to stay home for the three-day weekend, except for essential tasks. The government of Prime Minister Mario Draghis allowed a visit to family or friends during the day in the resident regions over the weekend, which includes the national holiday on Monday.
Italy allows religious services in pandemics if capacity is limited and if masks are worn. But early, mostly Roman Catholic countries, many churches were open only for individual prayer.
Hundreds of Catholics gathered at St. Paul Mammoth Cathedral in St. Paul, Minnesota, for the Easter Vigil service Saturday night. Every other pan was kept empty and masks were mandatory. Still, the solemn liturgy marked a new beginning, hopeful for the congregation after a turbulent year.
After all the virtual Easter services last year, St. Patricks in New York City was at half capacity for Sunday Mass. Worshipers flocked outside to the arched neo-Gothic cathedral, which can accommodate more than 2,000. The choir sang through masks.
In Detroit, the Hartford Memorial Baptist Church opened for Easter services for the first time in more than a year, with capacity limits and rules of social distance. Rev. Charles Christian Adams told the Detroit Free Press that people need a church, especially since the congregation lost at least 14 members of COVID-19.
In Florida, the Eastgate Christian Fellowship in Panama City Beach hosted the annual beach sunrise service. The church was forced to cancel the service last year because all the beaches were closed. Pastor Janelle Green estimated that about 400 people attended.
Robin Fox from Palm Bay, planned to spend Sunday driving her mother to Orlando to get a second dose of the vaccine at a Federal Emergency Management Agency crossing.
He gets that freedom the same day when (people go) to church to celebrate Jesus being resurrected, so I told (her), its kind of like getting up too, Fox said.
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