D.C.’s Basilica of the National Shrine streams Easter Sunday service

D.C.'s Basilica of the National Shrine usually sees 10,000 visitors on Easter Sunday. But the coronavirus pandemic forced clergy to stream a mass in an empty church.

Hundreds of pews sat empty as D.C.’s Shrine of the National Basilica, the country’s largest Catholic Church, streamed its Easter Sunday service in a nearly empty building that in years past, hosted around 10,000 worshipers celebrating Resurrection Day.

The Basilica would normally host six Masses on Easter to reach followers in a church so packed many worshipers would stand.

Instead, on Sunday, Washington Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory and Reverend Monsignor Walter R. Rossi led the Basilica in a lone Easter Sunday mass that was streamed online.

“Easter Sunday is moving people in and out the parking lot is a traffic jam. And this year, it is completely silent. And in a real way, that's very sad for us because the church is a beautiful place it's a beautiful building, but without people is just a building. It's like being in a tomb,” Monsignor Rossi said.

This was part of the motivation to stream a traditional Catholic Easter Sunday service while still trying to adhere to social distancing standards.

A minimal number of choir and staff members entered the building. The cameramen and women filming the service were also seen wearing face covers. 

 “The resurrection of Jesus celebrates his triumph over sin ... And because of the resurrection, we too can be triumphant even over the coronavirus, the resurrection of Jesus brings life," Monsignor Rossi said. "It brings hope. And my prayer for this Easter Sunday, is that the resurrection brings new life into hope to the entire world.”

In September the Basilica will celebrate 100 years since the first foundation stone was laid. The Church first opened its doors in Northeast D.C. nearly 60 years ago.