The Archbishop of Panama travelled on helicopter to deliver the traditional Catholic Palm Sunday blessing on April 5 amid the closure of churches due to the coronavirus. The Holy Week celebrations have come to a halt after the country was forced to shut down and refrain from any public celebration because of the fear of COVID-19 spread.
Archbishop Jose Domingo Ulloa celebrated the mass in Howard Air Force base in Panama before flying over Panama City's streets and deserted countryside. The Archbishop was accompanied by two priests. Ulloa covered his face with a white mask while traveling over the city in a helicopter.
The archbishop carried the statue of Santa Maria La Antigua, Panama's patron saint, in order to "protect the country from the disease." The residents placed palm fronds on their balconies and front doors to receive the blessings.
Coronavirus in Panama
The Central American country has reported the latest figures to be 1,801 infections with 46 deaths. Panama has gone into complete lockdown after closing schools and borders. Last week people were allowed to go out on alternative days to buy medicines and essential goods. Nobody is allowed out on Sundays.
Palm Sunday marks the arrival of Jesus in Jerusalem before his crucifixion. Easter Sunday, which falls on April 12 this year, celebrates his resurrection. The ceremony usually happens in churches and the priests sprinkle holy water on the fronds brought by the congregation. The Archbishop dedicated the Holy Week to the health care workers.
There was a limited celebration even in Vatican City and Jerusalem. The Palm Sunday celebration is the beginning of Holy Week. The coronavirus fears have made the religious institutions and worshippers to practice social distancing and be aware of the spread that could happen during a mass gathering. Usually, thousands of people gather in the Vatican to observe Palm Sunday. This time Pope Francis conducted Mass Sunday in St. Peter's Basilica in front of his aides, a few invited prelates, nuns, and laypeople.
Typically thousands of pilgrims march in Jerusalem, but this time it was just a few Franciscan monks and Roman Catholic faithful.