Calwa church carries on Good Friday tradition amid pandemic

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- A sacred tradition returns on Good Friday with some safety changes.

Parishioners prayed together watching on as families carried a crown of thorns, marking the Stations of the Cross on Good Friday.

The tradition was put on hold last year due to the pandemic.

Father Alex Gaitan at St. Anthony Claret Church says this year, the event will have some new COVID 19 protocols.

"This is going to be seated. People are going to use their masks and bring their own hand sanitizer," Gaitan said.

The Calwa church is known for recreating the final moments of the life of Jesus Christ, a moving tradition that draws in thousands to the southeast Fresno neighborhood.

This year, the street stayed empty as the event remained on the church site with limited capacity capped at a little over 200 people.

Father Gaitan said each station of the cross was represented by a family hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Some are recovering from COVID, others had family have lost their loved ones," said Gaitan.

Manuel Navarro is one of those dealing with loss.

In Spanish, he lost his sister about two months ago from the virus.

Navarro said she was in the hospital for a month and a half before she died.

While he's still mourning, he said he's glad to be with the community he considers family.

Maria Garcia said she's at the event to pray for her daughter, who is still recovering from the virus.

Father Gaitan said tradition helps people cope with the past year, and remind them of the true meaning of Easter.

"We still have discrimination. Discrimination against African Americans. Discrimination against Latinos. Discrimination against those with a different sexual orientation. We walk with Jesus today because he embraced humanity and all that we are," Gaitan said.

The church is also scheduled to have an Easter vigil service on Saturday.
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