As Spain clamps down on coronavirus, archbishop celebrates YouTube mass

Three people attend a mass at La Almudena Cathedral that is being lived streamed after Catholic masses were suspended during a partial lockdown as part of a 15-day state of emergency to combat the coronavirus disease outbreak, in Madrid, Spain March 15, 2020. REUTERS/Susana Vera

MADRID (Reuters) - The tones of Madrid’s archbishop rang through an echoey and empty Almudena cathedral on Sunday evening, as he gave his first digital-only Sunday service due to coronavirus.

“To me it seems full because I know people are watching at home,” the Archbishop of Madrid, Cardinal Carlos Osoro told Reuters. “When I celebrate mass, I am not alone.”

The Madrid archdiocese has its own YouTube channel, where on Sunday it broadcast mass to the faithful who could not attend in person, drawing more than 5,000 views.

Osoro canceled all services in the capital on Saturday, the same day Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez announced a range of measures aimed at tackling the spread of coronavirus.

Spain, the second-worst affected European country after Italy, on Saturday ordered its 47 million citizens to stay indoors except for necessary outings such as buying food and medicine. Social gatherings are banned.

Some of the first restrictions on worshippers in early March included being told not to kiss religious statues, but these were ramped up in recent days with the cancellation of masses across Spain. The cancellation of Easter parades that draw millions of spectators is a blow to Spain’s tourism industry.

Reporting Silvio Castellanos and Raul Cadenas; Writing by Jessica Jones; Editing by Daniel Wallis