Pope Francis celebrated Palm Sunday mass without the public for the first time because of the coronavirus.
On Sunday, the Pope led the first of several Holy Week ceremonies in a near-empty St. Peter's Basilica. Only a few clergy members and a reduced choir were present. To respect social distancing, people sat apart from each other in the church.
Normally, thousands of area residents, tourists, and pilgrims gather to celebrate Palm Sunday in an outdoor ceremony in St. Peter's Square. But with Italy's strict non-gathering rules, this year's service was seen mostly by people watching it livestreamed on the web.
Pope Francis dedicated part of his message to addressing the coronavirus, saying that leaning on religion should give people courage "in the tragedy of a pandemic [and] in the face of the many false securities that have now crumbled."
The Vatican has said there are seven cases of coronavirus among the residents or employees of the tiny independent city-state. The pope has tested negative for the coronavirus twice.
Palm Sunday begins Holy Week leading up to Easter, which this year falls on April 12.