Pope Francis leads empty Vigil Mass ahead of Easter

Pope Francis led Holy Saturday Vigil Mass with no audience as the world geared up for a grim Easter amid the coronavirus pandemic. The U.S. on Saturday surpassed 20,000 deaths nationwide from coronavirus, overtaking Italy as the country with the most deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University.

“Do not be afraid, do not yield to fear: This is the message of hope. It is addressed to us, today. These are the words that God repeats to us this very night,” Francis said.

The vigil, which is normally attended by roughly 10,000 people in the packed St. Peter’s Basilica, was attended by only about two dozen, including a few altar servers and a smaller-than-usual choir.

In the United Kingdom, Queen Elizabeth delivered her first-ever Easter message, saying “we need Easter as much as ever.”

“We know that coronavirus will not overcome us,” Queen Elizabeth said. “As dark as death can be, particularly for those suffering with grief, light and life are greater. May the living flame of the Easter hope be a steady guide as we face the future.” 

In the epicenter of the U.S. crisis, New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo said he saw signs the death rate is stabilizing, although he called it a “horrific rate.” Cuomo said Saturday that 783 people died in New York on Friday due to COVID-19. On Thursday, 777 people lost their lives to the virus. The day before that, the state reported 799 deaths.

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