April 10 (UPI) -- Catholic Church leaders in Paris will hold a small Good Friday service at the Notre Dame Cathedral, which is still being stabilized nearly a year after a devastating fire.
Paris Archbishop Michel Aupetit told reporters this week the service will send a message of hope and renewal amid the coronavirus pandemic, which has killed more than 12,000 in France.
The mass will be attended by only seven people and a television crew and will be held in the cathedral's apse, which has been stabilized after the April 15, 2019, blaze that destroyed the Gothic structure's roof and spire.
The Crown of Thorns relic, believed to be the one placed on Jesus's head before his crucifixion, will be at the altar for the mass. It will return to Notre Dame for the first time since the fire after being temporarily stored at the Louvre museum.
At the Vatican, Pope Francis on Friday thanked prisoners, victims, guards and others associated with a prison in northern Italy for composing the meditations to be read during the Stations of the Cross on Good Friday evening in St. Peter's Square.
Calling them his friends, Francis praised the members of the Due Palazzi correctional prison in Padua for sharing their stories, saying in a radio broadcast, "God tells of Himself and speaks to us within a story, and invites us to listen attentively and mercifully."
The prisoners will carry the cross during the ceremony, along with doctors and nurses from the Vatican Healthcare Department who are fighting the pandemic.
Holy Thursday, Good Friday, the Easter Vigil and Easter Sunday Mass are all being celebrated at the Vatican without the physical presence of worshipers due to lockdown restrictions in Italy.