Pope to lead prayer for virus’ end in empty St. Peter’s Square

Pope Francis due on Friday to appear in an empty St. Peter’s Square to lead special prayers asking God for an end of the novel coronavirus pandemic.

The live-streamed service was expected to start at 6 p.m. (1700 GMT) and last about an hour, meaning that the sun was due to set over the proceedings.

There will be readings, prayers and, in the end, Francis will impart the Urbi et Orbi (To The City and The World) blessings, which are normally given only at Christmas, Easter and after a papal election.

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For the occasion, across from the central Roman church of St Marcellus, venerated for ending a 16th-century plague, will be placed in front of the central door of St. Peter’s Basilica.

Francis paid a surprise visit to the church two Sundays ago. Footage of him walking along the deserted Via del Corso shopping avenue, with Rome under lockdown, made a worldwide impression.

The Vatican reported four novel coronavirus cases on Tuesday, but, according to Italian media, more people have since become infected, including in the Santa Marta residence where the pope lives.

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Il Messaggero newspaper reported Friday that Francis has taken a second swab test – after one last month when he caught a cold – and again came up negative for the virus.

The Vatican press office was not available for comment.

Due to the ongoing epidemic, St Peter’s Square and the Basilica are closed, and the pope no longer appears in public, but addresses the faithful via live-streamed messages and prayers.



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