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No crowds at Vatican Holy Week ceremonies amid pandemic

Francis traditionally leads a Palm Sunday procession through St Peter’s Square in Vatican City.

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Pope Francis celebrates Palm Sunday Mass in Saint Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican, Sunday, March 28, 2021. (Giuseppe Lami/Pool photo via AP)

Pope Francis celebrates Palm Sunday Mass in Saint Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican, Sunday, March 28, 2021. (Giuseppe Lami/Pool photo via AP)

Pope Francis celebrates Palm Sunday Mass in Saint Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican, Sunday, March 28, 2021. (Giuseppe Lami/Pool photo via AP)

Pope Francis is celebrating solemn Holy Week ceremonies without the usual throngs of pilgrims and tourists for the second year running amid pandemic safety concerns and travel restrictions.

Francis traditionally leads a Palm Sunday procession through St Peter’s Square in Vatican City and then celebrates an outdoor Mass for tens of thousands of faithful.

But this year he led a Palm Sunday service inside St Peter’s Basilica, as he did last spring.

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Pope Francis celebrates Palm Sunday Mass in Saint Peter’s Basilica (Giuseppe Lami/AP)

Pope Francis celebrates Palm Sunday Mass in Saint Peter’s Basilica (Giuseppe Lami/AP)

AP/PA Images

Pope Francis celebrates Palm Sunday Mass in Saint Peter’s Basilica (Giuseppe Lami/AP)

That came just weeks after the Covid-19 outbreak erupted in Italy, which was the first country in the West to be hit by the pandemic.

Only about 120 faithful, including nuns and a few families, attended and were socially-distanced.

They wore protective masks, as did participants in the procession of 30 red-robed cardinals, but Francis was maskless.

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