Myanmar protesters have found a new way to tie anti-coup demonstrations together nationwide – holding painted eggs in a nod to Easter as they stormed the streets.
One group marched through the biggest city of Yangon chanting and singing protest songs while cradling eggs bearing the slogan “Spring Revolution”.
Many of the eggs also featured a drawing of the three-fingered salute – a symbol of resistance to the 1 February coup.
The number of civilian deaths has reached 557 after the Myanmar military’s violent crackdown on protesters and others in opposition after they seized power of Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi’s elected government.
In his Easter Sunday address at St Peter’s Basilica, Pope Francis prayed for the “young people of Myanmar committed to supporting democracy and making their voices heard so peacefully, in the knowledge that hatred can be dispelled only by love”.
It comes as other parts of the world celebrated the religious holiday under COVID-19 restrictions for a second year – with many sitting apart in pews and singing choruses of “Hallelujah” through face masks.
Pope Francis sprinkled incense near an icon of Jesus, saying: “May the joy of Easter extend to the whole world”.
But he sounded angry as he spoke of how the pandemic had triggered severe social and economic suffering.
“The pandemic is still spreading, while the social and economic crisis remains severe, especially for the poor.
“Nevertheless – and this is scandalous – armed conflicts have not ended, and military arsenals are being strengthened.
“That is today’s scandal.”
Around 200 or so faithful were allowed to join the Pope in the cathedral – which would normally packed with thousands of worshippers.
A crowd of sometimes more than 100,000 would also outside in St Peter’s Square to receive the Pope’s special Easter blessing after Mass.
People were banned from gathering in Italy and the Vatican for the second year in a row as the Pope delivered his Easter address from inside the Basilica.
Meanwhile, at a hospital in Lombardy, northern Italy – which was hard hit by the pandemic in February 2020 – a dove-shaped Easter cake symbolising peace was given to each individual who queued up to receive a COVID-19 vaccine.
And in Puglia, in southern Italy, many mayors urged the faithful to stay home and watch Mass on TV as the region is under the most severe “red-zone” restrictions due to the soaring COVID infection rate.
The usually popular Saturday night Easter Vigil Mass was off the cards across Italy due to the nationwide 10pm to 5am curfew, with church bells summoning people to much earlier services before sunset.
A similar scenario played out in France, which is also tackling a third wave of COVID-19 cases that are overwhelming already strained hospitals.
Some French churches held their traditional midnight Easter services before dawn on Sunday instead of Saturday night due to the nation’s 7pm to 6am curfew.
The main stadium in the French city of Lyon, which has opened a new mass vaccination centre, saw thousands of people spending the Easter weekend lining up for COVID vaccines as the government attempts to speed up shots due to a new surge in cases.
Air travel restrictions and quarantine rules in Jerusalem stopped foreign pilgrims from flocking to religious sites during Holy Week – which ends with Easter celebrations.
The city’s Easter service at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre was celebrated by Latin Patriarch Pierbattista, the senior Roman Catholic cleric in the Holy Land.
Located in Jerusalem’s Old City, the site is where many Christians believe Jesus was crucified, buried and rose from the dead.
In contrast to many countries this Easter, South Korea allowed 2,000 church members to attend an Easter service at the Yoido Full Gospel Church – the biggest Protestant church in the country – but it was still only 17% of the capacity of the main building.
Church members sang hymns wearing face coverings, clapped and prayed as the service was broadcast online and by Christian TV channels.
And in the biggest Catholic church in South Korea, Seoul’s Myeongdong Catholic Cathedral, Mass attendance was limited to 20% capacity, with the Easter service livestreamed on YouTube.