Nurses and doctors wearing their white hospital coats joined a torch-lit Good Friday procession in an almost empty St. Peter’s Square, as Pope Francis presided over the Way of the Cross ceremony which couldn’t be held this year at Rome’s Colosseum, as tradition holds, because of Italy’s lockdown for the coronavirus pandemic.
The participation of Vatican medical personnel provided a stark reminder of how the virus outbreak has infused almost all walks of life.
Francis watched from the steps outside St. Peter’s Basilica as the procession, which included a uniformed police officer, a Padua, Italy, prison chaplain and a former inmate, circled around the square’s central obelisk. The Way of the Cross procession evokes Jesus suffering on His way to be crucified.
Earlier, at a Good Friday service inside the basilica, the papal preacher said pandemic has alerted people to the danger of thinking themselves all-powerful. During that service, in a sign of humble obedience, Francis prostrated himself for a few minutes on the basilica floor.
With rank-and-file faithful not allowed into the basilica in accordance with virus containment measures, the Rev. Raniero Cantalamessa told a few prelates, choir members, and about a score of other participants that “it took merely the smallest and most formless element of nature, a virus, to remind us that we are mortal” and that “military power and technology are not sufficient to save us.”
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The Associated Press contributed to this report.