Vatican City / Tel Aviv Due to the Corona crisis, Good Friday ceremonies in Rome and Jerusalem have been kept to a minimum. Pope Francis must do all the rites on the occasion of Jesus’ death and resurrection at Easter without the usual pilgrimage mass. The Catholic Church had moved the traditional Way of the Cross procession in the evening because of the lung disease from the Colosseum to the blocked-off St. Peter’s Square.
The procession and a previous celebration in the almost empty cathedral could only be seen via live stream on the Internet and various TV channels. Already on Maundy Thursday, Francis had seemed very lonely at an opening mass with a few church dignitaries. The Pope recalled priests, doctors, and nurses who would do great things in the Corona crisis and many of whom died from COVID 19 disease. Traditional foot washing had been canceled due to health risks.
Festival services via the Internet
On Friday afternoon there were only a few police cars and isolated television teams in front of the barriers in St. Peter’s Square. The mood there and in the almost empty streets of the Italian capital, despite the sunshine and warm temperatures, was even more depressed than on the previous days.
The 83-year-old head of the church may have found it difficult to forego the moving ritual of the cross at the Colosseum. Francis is known for loving contact with people. The procession traditionally recreates Jesus’ suffering on the way to death in 14 stations. This time there are only a few involved. The meditation texts that are read come from prisoners in a prison in Padua in northern Italy.
In the days that follow, Pope Francis will also celebrate Easter Mass and the traditional blessing “Urbi et Orbi” on this Sunday without pilgrims. These festival services are also broadcast on the Internet, among other things.
Alone through Via Dolorosa
In Jerusalem, the processions with believers were also canceled: the head of the Catholic Patriarchate in the Holy Land, Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa, walked on Good Friday through Via Dolorosa in the old town without pilgrims. Where otherwise thousands recreate Jesus’ path of suffering in several moves, Pizzaballa only went with three companions to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. According to a spokesman for the Franciscan order, he held a small prayer there.
The church is closed to the general public due to the spread of the coronavirus. Unlike in previous years, the alleys in Jerusalem’s Old City were empty. Shops and places of worship remained closed. Easter is the most important religious festival for Christians worldwide. They are celebrating Jesus ’resurrection. Italy has been particularly hard hit by the Corona pandemic. There and in Israel, there are strict exit restrictions. The Israeli government has mandated that people be allowed to move more than 100 meters from their homes only under certain conditions.