Pope Francis Prays For Coronavirus Relief in Unprecedented Empty Vatican Audience

Pope Francis prayed that God would comfort Italy and the world in the midst of the raging Chinese coronavirus epidemic, appearing in an unprecedented Vatican audience in Saint Peter’s Square. Papal events at the Vatican are almost always filled with pilgrims and the faithful, but the ceremony overseen by the Pope was entirely empty on account of the strict quarantine imposed on Italy as the nation reels from an unmatched death count from the disease.

Imagery of the event revealed the striking emptiness of the Vatican square, the overcast and rainy weather adding to the solemn nature of the papal event.

May God’s blessing come down upon you as a consoling embrace,”  said the Pope at the event. “Lord, bless the world. Give health to our bodies and comfort our hearts.”

The Pope encouraged prayer from the faithful for those directly involved in the response to the historic health epidemic- healthcare workers, doctors, grocery employees, police and volunteers.

The Pope chose to deliver the traditional ‘Urbi et Orbi’ address at the event, a Vatican tradition that is usually reserved for Christmas and Easter. The prayer implied the likely cancellation of Vatican Easter proceedings, with the devastation caused by the coronavirus in Italy likely precluding any major gatherings within the coming months, at least. Reports indicate that the Pope will celebrate traditional Good Friday and Easter Sunday masses, but alone, in a manner similar to Friday’s papal appearance.

Catholic Sunday Masses have been entirely cancelled in Italy, a nearly entirely unprecedented development that speaks to the gravity of the situation in the disease-stricken country. The nation had its worst day in terms of casualties on Friday, with deaths rising to 9,134, with a total national count of almost 87,000.

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