Accessibility links

Breaking News

Vatican to Observe Holy Week Behind Closed Doors

Pope Francis leans out of his studio window overlooking St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, March 15, 2020.

The Vatican has taken an unprecedented decision due to the coronavirus outbreak. All Holy Week services with Pope Francis will be held without a congregation, including Easter Sunday mass.

It will be a very different Holy Week for the faithful this year, particularly for those in Rome. No one will be allowed to attend any of the services due to the coronavirus outbreak. The large crowds in Saint Peter’s Square will not be possible this year.

A note on the web site of the Prefecture of the Pontifical Household that appeared late Saturday said the faithful will be able to follow the events as they are streamed on the internet or carried on television, but no one will be able to actively participate.

Holy Week is normally one of the busiest times of the year for Pope Francis, with tens of thousands of people arriving from all over the world to join in celebrating the resurrection of Jesus.

FILE - Few tourists walk in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, March 6, 2020.
FILE - Few tourists walk in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, March 6, 2020.

It is still unclear how the services will be held by the pope, or where exactly, as the Vatican is still to provide further details. Holy Week services begin on Palm Sunday, which marks Jesus's triumphant entry into Jerusalem. Other important services include Holy Thursday Mass when the oils are blessed. Normally on that day Pope Francis washes the feet of prisoners but this is unlikely to happen this year.

The Lord’s Passion service is normally held in Saint Peter’s Basilica on Good Friday followed by the Way of the Cross around Rome’s ancient Colosseum. This too is likely to be canceled or will take place without public participation. Pope Francis will still be giving his twice-yearly Urbi et Orbi blessing on Easter Sunday.

Italian authorities locked down the entire country last Monday as the death toll from the coronavirus outbreak continues to soar. There are currently more than 21,000 positive cases in the country and the death toll has reached 1441. Churches in Rome have been reopened but all masses are canceled to avoid people gathering in one place.