ROME — Pope Francis urged his coronavirus-weary flock to not lose hope even through the continued “dark months” of the pandemic as he celebrated a scaled-back Easter vigil service in St. Peter’s Basilica on Saturday.
Due to social-distancing norms, only about 200 masked people were allowed to attend the service, which marks the period between Christ’s crucifixion and his joyous resurrection on Easter Sunday.
For the second year in a row, the Vatican cut out the traditional sacrament of baptism for a handful of adults to limit the chance of contagion. Usually, a long, late-night ritual, this year’s vigil service also started earlier than usual to respect Italy’s 10 p.m. COVID-19 curfew.
But the service began in the dramatic way it always does, with the pope lighting a single candle in the darkened basilica and then sharing its flame with others until the pews slowly begin to twinkle and the basilica’s lights are turned on.
In his homily, Francis