Palm Sunday 2020 takes a virtual twist


Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Pope Francis, who conducted a Palm Sunday Mass virtually due to the coronavirus pandemic

Alex Martinez, News Editor

As quarantining continues on a global scale, the masses limit their interactions with the outside world, creating drastic lifestyle changes for millions. Churches across the world have been closed as to not have large amounts of people in a small area, which in itself is problematic to millions. One specific unprecedented ramification of the church closings was how Palm Sunday was celebrated. This April 5, Christians across the world experienced Palm Sunday Mass from their homes instead of mass. Palm Sunday is the Christian celebration of Jesus entering Jerusalem before his crucifixion. Palm Sunday mass is one of the most attended masses of the year for Christians, behind Christmas Eve and Easter.

In Italy, Pope Francis conducting Palm Sunday services in an empty Vatican, a sight very seldom seen. A typical Palm Sunday service in the Vatican attracts tens of thousands of people to St. Peter’s Square. This Palm Sunday however, the service was upended due to quarantine restrictions and was done at St. Peter’s Basilica. The service led by Pope Francis, despite lacking a physical audience, was televised and streamed to millions of viewers across the world.
Some parish priests in Italy went to unusual lengths to provide parishioners with mass without having to resort to watching it on television or computers by doing mass on the roofs of buildings. People could then watch mass from their balconies, the closest thing they had access to that was not regular church service. The limitations imposed on the world as a result of the coronavirus force people to adapt to these new circumstances.

In Panama, archbishop Jose Domingo Ulloa took to the skies from Howard Air Force base to deliver traditional Palm Sunday mass via helicopter. Donning gloves and a face mask, he sprinkled holy water on palm fronds brought by the congregation. Residents would stand on their balconies or at their front doors to receive the blessings Churches across the world had to abandon their century-old tradition of church services to accommodate the restrictions imposed as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, impeding people’s ability to congregate or be in close contact with each other. These worldwide occurrences are a testament to human nature, how we rise up in the face of adversity and make things work, no matter how bad the situation. When we cannot gather or be within six feet of each other for mass, priests board helicopters and bless with masses from the air. All over the world, parishes utilized technology to make Palm Sunday Mass available to millions, even if it was not in person. As crippling as the coronavirus pandemic is to human activities across the world, finding creative solutions to these problems help people cope with the stress and boredom of quarantining.

Social media also played a role this Palm Sunday, thousands of Twitter users shared pictures of their own impromptu Palm Sunday celebration. These pictures depicted people at home, often watching livestreams of Palm Sunday service with a branch they plucked from their yard. Twitter managed to act as a forum for those in the same situation and inspired others to act in similar ways.

Despite the state bans against holding gatherings, some churches in the United States held normal Palm Sunday services in defiance of the new rules against gatherings.

“We don’t get our rights to worship freely from the government we get those from God… We’d rather obey God than man,” Reverend Tony Spell, reverend of Life Tabernacle Church in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, said

Spell was caught holding another massive church service after already been apprehended for violating the state ban multiple times. His mass had 1,220 attendees, some of which drove 100 miles to attend. Spell’s multiple major violations of the state ban on gatherings is sure to land him in more serious trouble this time around, especially considering how large the gatherings were. Spell told sources that he believes the pandemic is “politically motivated.” Spell’s vastly different approach to Palm Sunday quarantine celebrations posed a bigger problem than most people realize, potentially worsening the coronavirus pandemic.