Vatican City (AP) – The most beautiful Christian holidays were celebrated around the world, with the faithful spreading in seats and singing “Hallelujah” choirs through the face-coverings on the second Sunday of Easter marked by the precautions of the epidemic.
From massive Roman Catholic cathedrals to Protestant churches, devotees have followed regulations related to the Coronavirus. In some European countries, citizens queued up at Easter for their turn to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.
In the Lombardy region of Italy, where the epidemic first appeared in the West, a hospital presented a traditional Easter cake in the shape of a dove, symbolizing peace to everyone waiting to receive a vaccination. Many of those who came were in their eighties.
A football team in Lyon, France, opened its stadium as a vaccination center For the long weekend. Around 9,000 people were expected to receive their vaccines there over a period of three days as the French government tries to speed up vaccination amid a new outbreak of infection.
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 lamented that the pandemic had prevented some churchgoers from attending services.
In St Peter’s Basilica, the 200 or so believers allowed to attend seemed lost in the cave cathedral. Typically, thousands will be at the Mass celebrated by Francis, and sometimes more than 100,000 gather outside at St Peter’s Square to receive Easter blessing afterward.
But this year, as in 2020, crowds were prevented from gathering in Italy and the Vatican. Francis gave his Easter afternoon speech about world affairs From within the basilica, seize the opportunity to call again that vaccines are reaching the poorest countries.
The Pope seemed weary when he noted that epidemiological measures had affected religious holiday traditions and distanced some believers from public worship.
Francis said, “We pray for the lifting of these restrictions, in addition to all restrictions imposed on freedom of worship and religion throughout the world, and for everyone to freely pray and praise.”
In Syria, where the national vaccination program has not yet started, the pioneers of the Church of Our Lady of Damascus prayed for a way out of the economic and political crisis that has been exacerbated by the epidemic.
Bassam Assaf said: “We came to the church for Easter in order to get rid of the epidemic that we are in.” Of course, we are not afraid of the Coronavirus. It is the truth that we face, but it does not prevent us from coming and praying to God to help us out of this ordeal and help the world. “
A senior Catholic cleric in the Holy Land performed a prayer at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in the Old City of Jerusalem. This is the site where many Christians believe that Jesus was crucified, buried, and raised from the dead. The successful Israeli vaccination campaign allowed many places, including religious sites, to reopen.
The epidemic prevented the Muslim Brotherhood in Seville from sending an ornate Easter buoy, which carried a towering 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 have canceled a three-day retreat that begins on Good Friday. On the hillside overlooking Soweto, a town in Johannesburg, Pentecostal Apostles gathered in small groups on Sundays to celebrate Easter.
In South Korea, Yoido Full Gospel Church, the largest Protestant church in the country, only allowed about 2,000 people to attend Easter mass, or about 17% of the main building’s capacity. Masked worshipers sang hymns and prayers as the service broadcasts via the Internet and Christian TV channels.
Determined to curb weeks of infection outbreaks, the Italian government has ordered people to stay home for three days over the weekend except for essential errands. Prime Minister Mario Draghi’s government has permitted one visit of family or friends per day in Indigenous areas during the weekend, which includes the national holiday on Monday.
Italy allows religious services in the event of a pandemic if capacity is limited and masks are worn. Early on, however, many churches in the predominantly Roman Catholic country were open only to individual prayer.
Hundreds of Catholics gathered at the giant St. Paul’s Cathedral in St. Paul, Minnesota, to attend Easter Mass on Saturday evening. All other seats were left empty and masks were mandatory. Nevertheless, the festive mass marked a new and hopeful start to the congregation after a tumultuous year.
After all of the virtual Easter Mass last year, St Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City was half full on Sunday Mass, as worshipers spaced out at the vaulted Neo-Gothic style, which seats more than 2,000. The choir sang through masks.
In Detroit, Hartford Memorial Baptist Church opened for personal Easter services for the first time in over a year, with capacity restrictions and social distancing rules in place. Reverend Charles Christian Adams told the Detroit Free Press that people need the church, especially after congregants have lost at least 14 members due to COVID-19.
Toon Carpio said the physical presence at St. Vincent de Paul Church in Austin, Texas, meant a lot to her after services were only provided online last year. She said being in the church helps keep her Filipino culture alive in her city, as some prayers are offered in her Tagalog home.
She said, “When you are inside a church, you get more serious, and you can focus on God.”
In Florida, the Eastgate Christian Fellowship in Panama City Beach hosted its annual Beach Sunrise service. The church had to cancel service last year because all beaches were closed. Reverend Janelle Green estimated that about 400 people participated.
Robin Fox of Palm Bay planned to spend the day driving her mother to Orlando to get a second dose of the vaccine at a FEMA follow-up site.
Fox said, “She gets this freedom on the same day (people) go to church to celebrate the resurrection of Christ, so I said (to her), ‘It’s like you get up too.”
Associated Press reporters from around the world contributed.
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