Portuguese priest brings Easter to his flock, in a Smart convertible

Oeiras (Portugal) (AFP) –


Portuguese priest Nuno Westwood took to the streets of a Lisbon suburb in a convertible microcar on Sunday to bring the Easter message to parishioners holed up in their homes to stem the spread of coronavirus.

"I felt the need to tell people that they are not alone and that they have not been abandoned, bringing them words of comfort and faith," said the 48-year-old, who is in charge of two parishes in Oeiras, west of the Portuguese capital.

He carried out his Easter roadshow aboard a convertible Smart microcar, speaking into a microphone as liturgical music played in the background.

"The church may be closed but it remains alive," Westwood, who has a British grandfather, told AFP.

Portugal's 30 million residents have been cooped up at home since mid-March and the restrictions were reinforced over the Easter period to deter traditional family reunions.

Lisbon Cardinal Manuel Clemente on Thursday hailed the "pastoral creativity" shown by priests bringing Easter to the faithful.

Clemente himself presided over a service in an empty cathedral which was streamed live on the internet.

Westwood has also begun celebrating mass online from his church which can be followed via social media.

"During the week we get about 200 people connected via Facebook. Before the epidemic there were between 50 and 100 in the church," he said.

Over 500 people have died in Portugal after contracting COVID-19 among more than 6,000 recorded cases of the disease.