Pope Francis has penned an open letter calling “for prayer and human closeness” to those suffering from new coronavirus in the northern Italian city of Padua.
The letter, published in the Padua daily newspaper, is intended to reach “all the Christian communities with their priests and bishop,” and thus symbolically, “everyone” in the city, Vatican News reports.
“The suffering and death that, as in other parts of Italy, you are experiencing because of the coronavirus is for me a reason for prayer and human closeness,” Pope Francis wrote.
“It is also the reason for Christian hope, [because] even in these moments, God is speaking to us.”
In recognition of the “dangerous situation” that has developed as a result of the outbreak, which had seen 9,172 infections and 463 deaths in Italy as of March 10, Pope Francis seized on the “opportunity to see what men and women of good will are capable of.”
He “first and foremost” brought his attention to the medical and paramedical personnel” who have been battling to treat the sick and help contain the epidemic.
Pope Francis added that good will, along with “a strong sense of responsibility and cooperation with the appropriate authorities,” has created an added value the “world sorely needs.”
On March 10, the Vatican announced it would be closing St. Peter’s Basilica and Square to tourists and guided tours until April 3.
That move comes after Pope Francis delivered the Angelus prayer online from the library of the Apostolic Palace, rather than a window of his residence, to a small crowd gathered on St. Peter’s Square on March 8.
The following day, the pope delivered morning Mass behind closed doors and via live-stream, while the general audience on March 11 is also being conducted online.
These are some of the measures being taken by the Holy See to reach out to Catholics as millions in surrounding Italy have been forced into quarantine.
Meanwhile, the Rome Diocese has also ordered the immediate suspension of all Masses in a bid to help Italy deal with the 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.
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.