Amid coronavirus, Panama archbishop gives Palm Sunday blessing from helicopter

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A Catholic archbishop went to new heights to deliver the traditional Palm Sunday blessing as the coronavirus pandemic forces churches to close their doors.

For a ceremony typically performed in the church where priests sprinkle holy water on palm leaves brought by congregants, Panama's Archbishop Jose Domingo Ulloa flew over the capital in a helicopter as residents put the fronds on their balconies and doorsteps.

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"We are living through an unprecedented event in the history of Christianity, celebrating Holy Week without a congregation in our churches," Ulloa told AFP.

Panama's Archbishop Jose Domingo Ulloa holds the Blessed Sacrament as he sits on a helicopter at Howard Air Force Base in Panama City on April 5, 2020 before a flight over the capital and surrounding areas to "protect the country from disease" amid fears of the spread of the novel coronavirus, COVID-19. (Photo by LUIS ACOSTA/AFP via Getty Images)

Panama's Archbishop Jose Domingo Ulloa holds the Blessed Sacrament as he sits on a helicopter at Howard Air Force Base in Panama City on April 5, 2020 before a flight over the capital and surrounding areas to "protect the country from disease" amid fears of the spread of the novel coronavirus, COVID-19. (Photo by LUIS ACOSTA/AFP via Getty Images)

Palm Sunday marks Jesus' arrival in Jerusalem before his crucifixion. Christians celebrate his resurrection from the dead on Easter Sunday, which this year falls on April 12.

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The archbishop, wearing a white mask over his mouth and nose, celebrated Mass at Panama's Howard Air Force Base before flying over the city's empty streets and countryside along with two priests.

Ulloa held a statue of Santa Maria La Antigua, Panama's patron saint, "to protect the country from (the) disease."

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After shutting its borders, Panama, which has registered at least 1,800 confirmed cases and 46 deaths, issued a decree that no residents are allowed outside on Sundays.