10:47 GMT14 April 2021
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    The deadly coronavirus pandemic started rapidly spreading around the world at the beginning of 2020, forcing governments to impose strict safety measures. Increasing death tolls and widespread lockdowns have marked the recent months, posing previously unknown challenges to humanity.

    During a celebratory mass on teh occasion of Palm Sunday at Vatican’s St. Peter’s Basilica, Pope Francis claimed that the devil is taking advantage of the coronavirus pandemic. The ceremony was broadcast online by Vatican News.

    “The devil is taking advantage of the crisis to sow distrust, desperation and discord,” the pope said during a sermon in an almost empty church due to the global pandemic.

    Recalling last year’s Palm Sunday, conducted amid similar restrictions, the pope acknowledged that people are now “more under pressure and the economic crisis has become heavy.” The pope said it is especially important during these times to support those in difficulty, the poor and the suffering.

    Pope Francis also called to pray for all victims of violence, especially for those resulting from a terrorist attack in front of a Catholic church in Indonesia early this day.

    The religious service on the occasion of Palm Sunday, celebrated today by the Roman Catholic Church, was held in the Vatican in the presence of 30 cardinals and some 120 invited others due to restrictive measures. The traditional annual massive procession at St. Peter's Square with palm and olive branches, attended by tens of thousands of Catholics from around the world, was canceled for a second time.

    Pope Francis holds mass on Palm Sunday at the Vatican with a limited number of faithful as strict COVID-19 restrictions remain in place over the Easter period, in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, March 28, 2021.
    © REUTERS / VATICAN MEDIA
    Pope Francis holds mass on Palm Sunday at the Vatican with a limited number of faithful as strict COVID-19 restrictions remain in place over the Easter period, in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, March 28, 2021.

    Palm Sunday is celebrated one week before Easter, on the sixth Sunday of Great Lent, to commemorate the Christian bible's story of the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem, arriving  prior to his death and resurrection. According to the religious story, people greeted the Christian prophet as a king, throwing palm branches in front of him on the road.

    To date, over 127 million COVID-19 cases have been registered worldwide since the outbreak of the pandemic, along with at least 2.8 million of coronavirus-related deaths, according to data collated by Johns Hopkins University.

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