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Pope says devil taking advantage of pandemic in Palm Sunday service

Pope FrancisPope FrancisPope Francis denounces 'aggressive' nationalism Pope names new bishop for Biden's Delaware diocese Pope calls migrant tragedy in Mediterranean 'a moment of shame' MORE reflected on the coronavirus during Palm Sunday services, where he said the devil is “taking advantage” of the pandemic.

“The devil is taking advantage of the crisis to sow distrust, desperation and discord,” Francis said at St. Peter’s Basilica, which was almost empty because of coronavirus restrictions.

He added that the pandemic has brought physical, psychological and spiritual suffering.

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Francis recognized that this was the second time Christians were forced to live Holy Week amid the pandemic. He said that while people last year were “shocked,” communities this year are “more under pressure.”

“Last year, we were shocked. This year, we are more under pressure, and the economic crisis has become heavy,” Francis said.

Around 120 members of the practicing faith joined the pope and approximately 30 cardinals in the basilica to participate in Sunday’s mass, according to Reuters, which is an extreme downsize from the tens of thousands of people who would normally fill St. Peter’s Square for an outdoor ceremony.

According to Reuters, nearly everyone who took part in the mass, aside from the pope and the choir, wore masks.

New lockdown restrictions went into effect in Italy earlier this month. Over Easter weekend, the entire country will be bound by a national lockdown.

In January, the Vatican announced that Pope Francis and his predecessor, Pope Emeritus Benedict, received their first doses of the coronavirus vaccine.