Feeling “caged” in but close to those gathered on St. Peter’s Square on Sunday, Pope Francis delivered a video-streamed prayer for those suffering from the new coronavirus.
“I join my brother bishops in encouraging the faithful to live this difficult moment with the strength of faith, the certainty of hope, and the fervor of charity,” the Catholic News Agency cites Pope Francis as saying on March 8.
“The season of Lent helps us all to give an evangelical sense also to this moment of trial and pain,” he said.
The pope’s blessing came as large parts of Italy remain in lockdown, with 133 deaths, over 7,000 cases, and 16 million people subject to quarantine on account of the global epidemic. The decision was also spurred after the Vatican reported its first case of new coronavirus on March 6.
In a bid to keep large crowds from assembling, Pope Francis delivered the Angelus prayer online from the library of the Apostolic Palace, rather than a window of his residence.
“Today’s Angelus prayer is a little strange with the pope ‘caged’ in the library, but I see you, I am close to you,” Pope Francis told an audience of hundreds gathered below to watch the address on screen.
Tens of thousands typically come out to hear the Sunday address.
“This way of praying the Angelus today is done to carry out preventive measures, so as to avoid crowds of people, which can favor the transmission of the virus,” he said.
The general audience on March 11 will also be streamed via video.
On March 5, the Vatican press office said Pope Francis was “slowly but surely” getting over a cold that had forced him to cancel a Lenten spiritual retreat last week. Reuters noted that Pope Francis appeared to have made a full recovery from that illness on March 8.
Meanwhile, the Rome Diocese has also ordered the immediate suspension of all Masses in a bid to help Italy deal with the new coronavirus epidemic.
Priests, however, will still be able to conduct Mass behind closed doors.
Other church related events, including weddings, christenings, and confirmations have likewise been suspended in Rome and across Italy until at least April 3, Wanted in Rome reports, citing the Italian news agency ANSA.
All museums, cinemas, theaters, bars, and archaeological sites are also closed during that period, in addition to educational institutes.
On March 5, the Italian Bishops’ Conference gave the green light for Mass to be celebrated in areas considered not at risk for new coronavirus.
Currently, 15 central and northern provinces in Italy are affected by the ongoing quarantine.