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Palm Sunday services move online to reduced numbers

Pedestrians wearing protective face masks walk by St. Patrick's Cathedral on Palm Sunday In New York City. Photo by John Angelillo/UPI
Pedestrians wearing protective face masks walk by St. Patrick's Cathedral on Palm Sunday In New York City. Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo

April 5 (UPI) -- Christians throughout the world turned to live-streamed or limited Palm Sunday services as the global COVID-19 pandemic impacted the beginning of Holy Week.

New York City's St. Patrick's Cathedral broadcast its nearly empty Palm Sunday mass on its website Sunday as Archbishop Timothy Cardinal Dolan lamented how the "vicious coronavirus" has forced parishioners to remain home and away from the church, particularly in the leadup to the Easter holiday in seven days.

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"We miss you, very much, being with us physically," he said to open the 10 a.m. Mass. "But we make the best of this and we know that Jesus is with is."

Dolan also warned of how the outbreak may cause people to turn against each other and their faith.

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"We're apprehensive, we're anxious, we're alone. Many feel by themselves and so many attacked by the virus with families and friends so worried and brave health care workers tending to them," he said. "And -- I hate to say it -- we may be tempted to lose trust in the one we believe to be our Lord, our savior, the way, the truth and the life."

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In Jerusalem, Israeli authorities said they would allow Easter ceremonies to continue with tighter restrictions due to the virus.

The annual Palm Sunday march in the city was scaled back significantly as only a handful of monks took part as people throughout the world have been urged to remain inside and practice social distancing by avoiding large gatherings to prevent the spread of the virus.

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The Orthodox Christian Holy Fire ceremony set to take place on April 18 in which the Greek Orthodox Patriarch enters the tomb of Jesus in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and emerges with fire that is traditionally distributed among thousands gathered at the church will instead be attended by a handful of religious figures and streamed online.

Pope Francis also gave his homily in the presence of only of a few priests, nuns and a smaller choir in the nearly empty St. Peter's Basilica on Sunday in a service that was also streamed online as Italy leads the world in deaths from the virus.

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