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Reach out to others in the spirit of Easter

Easter Sunday is one of the most important days on the Christian calendar, a normally joyous occasion celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ three days after his crucifixion. For most Australians, it is usually marked by some form of ritual: special church services, family gatherings, holiday plans, the passing out of chocolate. Like so much that brings people together, COVID-19 will have its way in curtailing plans.

The message has been echoed by many: it is time to stay at home, to place consequence before want. For the faithful, it will be particularly difficult. The church offers a place of sanctitude when the burdens of life are heavy. While belief may be a personal relationship with a god, the act of worshipping is most often a collective experience. A congregation brings together the like-minded, side by side in prayer. For those of faith, Sunday is for rejoicing in the marvel of a higher being using life itself as a means to reveal himself as the son of God.

Pope Francis delivers an Urbi et orbi prayer from the empty St. Peter's Square.

Pope Francis delivers an Urbi et orbi prayer from the empty St. Peter’s Square.Credit:Reuters

The recent image of Pope Francis delivering a blessing – Urbi et Orbi (To the city and the world) – in an empty Saint Peter’s Square offered a stark reminder of religious life in a pandemic. More than 11 million tuned in, but his solitude was its poignancy. Like sport without fans, a service without followers is a shallow reflection of the full experience. This week the Pope offered words of solace during this time: “Easter tells us that God can turn everything to good, and that with Him we can truly trust that all will be well.”

It has been weeks since Italy – enduring the world’s highest COVID-19 death toll – has opened its church doors for mass. The only exception enabled a few pilgrims to visit the shrine of Saint Rosalia, whose apparition is believed to have saved the southern Italian city of Palermo from a plague in 1625. Locals are hoping she will once again offer some reprieve. All faiths have had to curtail their activities, with religious gatherings having been a trigger in countries such as Malaysia and South Korea for widespread outbreaks of COVID-19.

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