Pope Francis leads scaled-down Easter Sunday mass

Sunday marks the second year in a row that Easter crowds have been prevented from gathering at the Vatican due to the global pandemic.

All papal services this year are being attended by about 200 people in the secondary altar of St. Peter’s Basilica.

Francis was due to deliver his traditional “Urbi et Orbi” (“To the city and the world”) message at 12 p.m. local time (6 a.m. ET).

Easter Sunday is the most important day in the Christian liturgical calendar and marks the day Christians believe Jesus rose from the dead after being crucified on Good Friday.

Children flock to Pope Francis during Good Friday service

Typically, up to 10,000 members of the faithful fill St. Peter’s Square. This year, Francis will deliver the blessing from the altar of the basilica to prevent worshipers crowding into the piazza.

At an Easter vigil on Saturday, Francis said he hoped the dark times of the pandemic would end and that people could rediscover “the grace of everyday life.”

And on Good Friday he hugged and greeted children who attended a special Stations of the Cross ceremony at the Vatican.

The Pope’s travel has been heavily restricted due to the pandemic but he did travel to Iraq last month, for the first ever papal visit to the country.

Saturday’s service began two hours earlier than usual so participants could return home before Rome’s 10 p.m. curfew.

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