By Crystal Cranmore

HAVERTOWN, Pa. (CBS) — From the Vatican to the Delaware Valley, Palm Sunday mass was celebrated online. The coronavirus outbreak has shut out the faithful from the churches but not from the word of God.

“Jail without bars,” a parishioner said.

That’s how parishioners describe the new norm.

“Never saw anything like it, and I’m 86,” a Delaware County woman said. “They put the palms in plastic bags so nobody would touch them.”

Those palms now a symbol of the times.

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The faithful collected them one by one with their hands and sometimes with their faces protected.

“It’s Palm Sunday and that’s tradition,” a parishioner said. “It’s when our Lord entered into Jerusalem.”

Religious leaders at Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary Parish tried to offer some comfort to Christians on the start of the Holy Week, while still keeping in mind concerns over COVID-19.

“Palms are very important because we will go home and maybe make a cross to keep in the house,” Anthony DeCurtis said.

“We are so appreciative of our pastor,” Sonia DeCurtis said.

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Not all churches in the area are taking part in the traditional Sunday as leaders try to encourage their members to adhere to stay-at-home mandates and social distancing recommendations.

“It’s extremely sad, but it’s part of our present reality,” Father Dennis Gill said.

The pews inside the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter Paul in Center City were empty but worship continued virtually.

“I would encourage people if they cannot take advantage of participating at a distance by watching it streamed on their computers or television screen, they can certainly participate by reading sacred scriptures assigned to that day,” Gill said.

He says the distribution of the palm will happen at a future date.


That is a call many others are making as they turn to preach online.

Back in Havertown, parishioners say these are troubling times but through faith, they will persevere

“We will get through it,” a parishioner said.

In New Jersey, the Diocese of Camden has asked members to put branches on their front door or windows since they cannot receive palms.

That is just one way that churches are trying to keep the faith as Easter approaches.