Coronavirus: Pope Francis begins Holy Week with a closed-door Palm Sunday Mass

The pope delivered a Palm Sunday to a near empty St Peter's Basilica
The pope delivered a Palm Sunday to a near empty St Peter's Basilica Copyright AP
By Rachael Kennedy
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Palm Sunday Mass usually attracts thousands of people to St Peter's Square - but this year was empty due to lockdown measures in place.

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Pope Francis has delivered Palm Sunday Mass behind the closed doors of St Peter's Basilica to adhere to strict lockdown measures in place.

Making a start to Holy Week - the week preceding Easter - the pope would usually deliver Mass outdoors to tens of thousands of worshippers carrying olive tree branches or palm fronds - but this year was empty due to the coronavirus pandemic.

AP
The few attendees sat metres apart to observe social distancing guidelinesAPAlberto Pizzoli
AP
Some attendees wore protective face masks during the MassAPAlberto Pizzoli

He instead delivered the closed-door ceremony to aides, a few invited prelates, nuns and laypeople, who observed social distancing.

Some were also spotted wearing protective face masks.

AP
St Peter's Basilica was near empty as the pope presided over the ceremonyAPAlberto Pizzoli

Palm Sunday Mass will therefore be the first in a week of closed-door Holy Week events, of which some require some tweaks in tradition.

For instance, the candlelit Good Friday Way of the Cross procession will be carried out at St Peter's Square instead of its location outside Rome's Colosseum.

There have been seven recorded cases of COVID-19 inside The Vatican since the outbreak began.

The pope tested negative for the virus last month.

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