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World News

Vatican bans public from Easter service due to coronavirus

by Heather Preston

The Vatican has announced that its Holy Week and Easter services will take place without public participation.

Palm Sunday Mass; the Chrism Mass; the Mass of the Lord's Supper; Good Friday's commemoration of the Lord's Passion; and the Easter Vigil will all be celebrated by the pontiff without the presence of the public.

The events which has drawn tens of thousands of worshippers to Vatican City in the past, will be broadcast live online.

The unprecedented decision was published by the office in charge of the Papal household over the weekend in response to the coronavirus outbreak.

Pope Francis' general audiences and Sunday blessings will also remain online until Easter Sunday.

An online statement says: "Because of the current global public health emergency, all the Liturgical Celebrations of Holy Week will take place without the physical presence of the faithful.

"Furthermore, this Prefecture informs that until April 12 the General Audiences and the Angelus presided over by the Holy Father will be available only in live streaming on the official Vatican News website."

Italy went into a national lockdown in the past week as the number of confirmed cases of the virus reached the highest levels recorded outside of China, with those testing positive for COVID-19 reaching nearly 25,000.

Elsewhere in the country, Masses have been cancelled to help limit the spread of the infection through public gatherings.

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