VATICAN CITY (AP) — Celebrating Palm Sunday Mass for a second time in the pandemic without crowds of faithful, Pope Francis said while shock dominated the first year of the COVID-19 health emergency, now people are more weary, with the economic crisis growing heavier.
Traditionally, the pope leads a Palm Sunday procession through St. Peter’s Square in front of tens of thousands of pilgrims and tourists clutching olive branches and braided palms before celebrating an outdoor Mass.
But as Francis did in spring 2020, just weeks after the COVID-19 outbreak erupted in Italy — the first country in the West to be hit by the pandemic — the pontiff led the solemn service, which begins Holy Week, inside St. Peter’s Basilica. Pandemic safety concerns and Italian government restrictions on travel and other movements while the country struggles with a surge of infections has kept away the usual throngs of tourists and pilgrims.
“For the second time we are living it (Holy Week) in the context of the pandemic,” Francis said, with around 120 faithful, including nuns and a few families or couples, sitting far apart in the pews. ”Last year, we were more shocked…