Photo: Alberto Pizzoli/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

Pope Francis called on listeners in his Palm Sunday sermon — on the first day of Holy Week — to "reach out to those who are suffering and those most in need" during the coronavirus pandemic, Reuters reports.

Why it matters: Francis delivered his message inside an empty St. Peter’s Basilica, broadcasting it over the internet to churches around the world.

  • The Vatican has mirrored Italy's lockdown, where more than 15,000 people have died from the virus, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

What he's saying: “The tragedy we are experiencing summons us to take seriously the things that are serious, and not to be caught up in those that matter less; to rediscover that life is of no use if not used to serve others. For life is measured by love,” Francis said, according to Reuters.

  • He urged his listeners to turn to God “in the tragedy of a pandemic, in the face of the many false securities that have now crumbled, in the face of so many hopes betrayed, in the sense of abandonment that weighs upon our hearts."
  • “May we not be concerned about what we lack, but what good we can do for others,” he said.

The big picture: The pope’s Holy Week services normally draw tens of thousands of pilgrims and tourists to Rome.

  • This year's Holy Week will take place in the empty basilica.
  • Religious gatherings are expected to be canceled or host smaller crowds around the world as countries encourage social distancing, though some places — including at least 11 U.S. states — are offering exemptions.
In photos
Pope Francis (rear C) and attendees during Palm Sunday mass behind closed doors at the Chair of Saint Peter in St. Peter's Basilica. Photo: Alberto Pizzoli/Pool/AFP via Getty Images
A prelate wearing a face mask holds a palm branch as attendees wait for the start of the Pope's Palm Sunday Mass. Photo: Alberto Pizzoli/Pool/AFP via Getty Images
In Lithuania, Pastor Evaldas Darulis is filmed as he leads the Palm Sunday Mass at the empty St. Francis of Assisi church. Photo: Petras Malukas/AFP via Getty Images

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