Easter comes with closed churches and sad hearts in a test of Christian faith

JERUSALEM / VATICAN CITY / MANILA – For the first time, Christians around the world will celebrate Easter at home, watching Easter Day prayer services via TV and the internet after churches around the globe closed to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus COVID-19. A day usually filled with exchanges of kisses and hugs in the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ will this year be celebrated in quiet solitude.

On Good Friday, in an ordinary year, the crucifixion of Christ is typically marked with solemn church services and emotional processions. Tens of thousands of pilgrims from around the world would retrace the steps of Christ during Easter Holy Week, one of the most sacred of Christian holidays.

However, with flights grounded and holy places and churches under lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there are no public processions, no masses of pilgrims, no solemn masses.

Only four people followed in the footsteps of Christ on the path of pain, their voices raising religious hymns under close surveillance by Israeli police.

Only six clerics will attend the mass at the Church of Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem, which will be presided over by the Apostolic Nuncio of the Patriarchate of Jerusalem, and will broadcast the mass on the TV, and social media.

A closed-door service was held by six clerics in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, presided over by the Apostolic Nuncio of the Patriarchate of Jerusalem and broadcast live on TV and over social media. Christians believe that the Church of the Holy Sepulcher is built on the site where Christ was crucified, buried, and rose from the dead. This is the first time in centuries the Holy Sepulcher has been closed.

At the Vatican, Pope Francis performed the “Trail of the Cross” prayer on Good Friday in St. Peter’s Square without the worshipers, saying, “Lord, do not leave us in the dark and shadow of death and protect us with the shield of your strength.”

Pope Francis also prayed for the priests who died while serving corona patients while presiding over the religious ceremony of Maundy Thursday in the Basilica of St. Peter and thanked God for the grace of priesthood to all priests, stressing that Jesus loves everyone.

In an interview with the Associated Press, Josille Sabsal, a 30-year-old Catholic missionary in Manila, expressed worshiping at home during Holy Week as a test of faith. “It’s different, because the priest is on a screen,” she said, having setup a laptop, a crucifix, and small statues of Jesus and the Virgin Mary on a table in an attempt to replicate and altar. “When the internet lags, the mass suddenly gets cut off and you have to look for another YouTube video.”

“I miss that moment in church when you say, ‘Peace be with you,’ to complete strangers and they smile back,” she added.