Pope Francis has held a dramatic, solitary prayer service in St Peter’s Square of the Vatican, urging the world to see the coronavirus pandemic as a test of solidarity and a reminder of basic values.
Speaking into an eerily empty square before delivering an extraordinary “Urbi et Orbi” (to the city and the world) blessing, the pontiff said on Friday that the health crisis put everyone “in the same boat”.
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“It has taken over our lives, filling everything with a deafening silence and a distressing void that stops everything as it passes by; we feel it in the air … We find ourselves afraid and lost,” he said.
The Vatican called the service “An Extraordinary Prayer in the Time of Pandemic”, a sombre echo of an announcement by Italian officials minutes earlier that the coronavirus death toll in the country had surged past 9,000.
Francis walked alone in the rain to a white canopy on the steps of the basilica and spoke sitting alone before a square where he normally draws tens of thousands of people, but which is now closed because of the pandemic.