Pope Francis celebrated Palm Sunday Mass in front of an almost empty St. Peters Basilica due to the COVID-19 outbreak in Vatican City on Sunday.

"Look at the real heroes that are coming to light in these days. It's not those who have fame, money and success but those who give themselves to serve others. Feel called upon to put your life at stake, don't be afraid to spend it for God and for others. It pays," said the Pope.

He called upon "young people, to cultivate and witness hope, generosity, solidarity of which we are all in need in these hard times," as Palm Sunday was declared World Youth Day by Pope John Paul II in 1985.

"Let's spiritually gather around the sick, their families and those who treat them sacrificing themselves. Let us pray for the deceased in light of the Easter faith each and everyone is present to our heart, our memory, our prayers," added Pope Francis, calling on worshippers to get together in prayer aided by technology.

Palm Sunday Mass marked the beginning of the Holy Week and usually draws tens of thousands of worshippers. Palm leaves and olive branches are brought to the ceremony to be blessed in memory of Jesus Christ's arrival in Jerusalem before being crucified.

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Associated Press 11 May 2020 11:44 CEST

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