St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican is normally swarming with tens of thousands of visitors hoping to get a glimpse of Pope Francis as he delivers his Sunday remarks.
But for the second Sunday this month, the square stood eerily empty as Italy remains on lockdown due to the novel coronavirus.
With the square closed to the public, Pope Francis delivered his blessing from inside the Apostolic Library.
“In this situation of pandemic, in which we find ourselves living more or less isolated, we are invited to rediscover and deepen the value of the communion that unites all the members of the Church,” the Pope said in his remarks after the Angelus prayer, which was livestreamed by Vatican News.
Pope Francis praised the medical personnel and the volunteers who are helping the elderly, poor and homeless, according to Vatican News.
After his noon remarks, the Pope left the Vatican and visited two churches to pray.
Despite Italian health officials demanding that people stay at home as much as possible to prevent the spread of coronavirus, Pope Francis briefly walked on a road — “as if making a pilgrimage” — to a church that houses a wooden crucifix that was carried through the streets of Rome in 1522 when the city was stricken with the plague, according to a Vatican spokesman.
He visited the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore and prayed for the pandemic to end, the spokesman said.
The Vatican announced Sunday that its Holy Week celebrations leading up to Easter, which typically draw thousands of pilgrims from around the world, will be closed to the public because of the “current global public health emergency.”
The Pope’s weekly public audiences have been suspended until April 12 but will be livestreamed by Vatican News.