Unable to invite Rome’s priests to mark Holy Thursday in St. Peter’s Basilica, Pope Francis thanked all priests for their service and called those who died ministering to the sick and health care workers part of the community of “saints next door.”

More than 60 priests have died of COVID-19 in Italy after contracting the coronavirus while carrying out their ministry helping others, he said during the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, broadcast on Vatican media April 9.

Because of the pandemic, liturgical celebrations with the pope have been pared down to the essential, eliminating or postponing optional rites and celebrations.

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