Pope Urges Solidarity On An Easter Of Both Joy, Virus Sorrow

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"For them, as for us, it was the darkest hour", Francis mentioned in his homily. "May the hearts of those who have enough be open to filling the empty hands of those who do not have the bare necessities", he said.

Even such hallowed traditions as the pope's messages to the faithful on Saint Peter's Square have been replaced by prayers that Francis reads into a camera from the seclusion of his private library.His only audience is the camera and the 83-year-old Argentine has admitted that the entire experience makes him feel "caged".

"Tonight we acquire a fundamental right that can never be taken away from us: the right to hope", he said. Police barricades ringed the square, blocking the tens of thousands who would normally flock to hear the pope's Mass and noontime "Urbi et Orbi" speech and blessing "to the city and the world".

A small number of masked faithful attended service at Seoul's Yoido Full Gospel Church, one of the biggest churches in South Korea. They were seated notably apart from each other, and choir members sang hymns from behind masks.

It was a message that was echoing in empty churches around the world on Sunday, including in the Holy Land.

Westminster Abbey in London is following the trend by releasing Easter podcasts for the faithful of the Anglican Church. "Once this epidemic is conquered here and elsewhere, we can not be content to go back to what was before as if all was normal".

Easter Sunday itself saw some faithful leave wreaths of flowers outside the locked doors of churches from where festive processions had departed in previous years in the southwestern Spanish city of Seville.

"For many, this is an Easter of solitude lived amid the sorrow and hardship that the pandemic is causing, from physical suffering to economic difficulties", he said.

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State television in Lebanon broadcast mass under lockdown from an empty church north of Beirut.

The church would normally be packed with people marking Easter, including the president, prime minister and parliament speaker. The church made the prayers available on its official Facebook page.

In worldwide locations all over the world Catholics adopted the papal service or Plenty mentioned by monks in their very own empty church buildings and broadcast on tv or over the web.

Its Orthodox counterpart in Greece is planning to hold mass behind closed doors for its Easter on April 19. The new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms for most people, but for some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness or death.

Bells rang across a still and completely silent Rome when mass began.

The Easter Sunday Mass often attracts as much as 100,000 folks in St. Peter's Sq.

AP writer Ilan Ben Zion contributed from Jerusalem.

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