The service is one of the rare times when the pope does not deliver a homily, leaving it to Father Raniero Cantalamessa, the preacher of the papal household.
"The pandemic of Coronavirus has abruptly roused us from the greatest danger individuals and humanity have always been susceptible to: the delusion of omnipotence," Cantalamessa said.
"It took merely the smallest and most formless element of nature, a virus, to remind us that we are mortal, that military power and technology are not sufficient to save us," he said.
The service is usually attended by cardinals, bishops and some 10,000 faithful.
But it was scaled back because of the coronavirus restrictions and attended by only about two dozen people, including papal aides reading from scriptures and a smaller than usual choir.
In another change from the usual ritual dictated by the coronavirus outbreak, only the pope kissed a crucifix at the end of the service.
Usually it is also kissed by every cardinal, archbishop and bishop in the church.
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