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Christians celebrate muted Easter for second year running amid COVID pandemic restrictions

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Archbishop Michel Aupetit, left, carries the holy cross at the Way of the Cross ceremony as part of the Holy Easter celebration, in the Sacre Coeur basilica, in Paris, France.
Archbishop Michel Aupetit, left, carries the holy cross at the Way of the Cross ceremony as part of the Holy Easter celebration, in the Sacre Coeur basilica, in Paris, France.   -   Copyright  Thibault Camus/Associated Press
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Christians around the world have been celebrating a muted Easter for the second time in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Pope Francis presided over the Way of the Cross procession on Good Friday in an almost empty St Peter’s Square.

He prayed that people don't lose their way in the crisis as he listened to children's poignant accounts of sorrow and loss in an unusual torch-lit procession.

Pope Francis also led the Passion of the Lord ceremony in St Peter's Basilica, marking the death of Jesus.

In Jerusalem, hundreds of believers walked along the Via Dolorosa to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre to mark Good Friday.

Many holy sites were open, thanks to an ambitious Israeli vaccination campaign. It was in stark contrast to last year when the city was under lockdown.

In neighbouring Lebanon, Christians observed Good Friday under a lockdown and suffering a severe economic crisis.

"People are not even talking about the feast," says Majida Al Asaily, owner of a sweets shop in Beirut. ``We haven't witnessed anything like this year, despite the war and other difficulties that we had faced before.''

Worshippers in the Philippines and France marked a second annual Holy Week under movement restrictions amid outbreaks fanned by more contagious strains. In the US, officials urged Christians to celebrate outdoors while social distancing, or in virtual masses.

In Kenya, all churches were ordered to close as part of a ban on large gatherings to contain a worsening outbreak.