- On Saturday, Pope Francis prayed for an end to the coronavirus pandemic, urging universal health care and vaccines for the poor.
- Francis warned against the epidemic of withdrawing and isolating oneself, instead urging dialogue to resolve global conflicts.
On Saturday, Pope Francis prayed for an end to the coronavirus pandemic, calling for universal health care, vaccines for the poor, and the triumph of dialogue in resolving global conflicts in his Christmas Day address.
Only a few thousand people flocked to a rain-soaked St. Peter’s Square for Francis’ annual “Urbi et Orbi” (“To the city and the world”) Christmas address, despite a record-breaking rise in COVID-19 cases in Italy this week. Normally, the square would be swarming with tens of thousands of holiday visitors.
At the very least, they’ll be able to get together this year. To avoid crowds forming in the square during Italy’s 2020 holiday lockdown, Francis gave a televised address from inside the Apostolic Palace.
Although Italy recorded more than 50,000 cases in a single day for the first time this week, the government has not imposed another curfew.
The pope’s Christmas Day speech provides him with an opportunity to draw the attention of a global audience to both large and small conflicts. This year was no exception.
Francis lamented the ongoing conflicts in Syria, Yemen, and Iraq, as well as newly escalating tensions in Ukraine and Ethiopia, as well as Lebanon’s “unprecedented crisis.”
“We have grown accustomed to them (conflicts),” he said from the loggia of St. Peter’s Basilica, as Swiss Guards stood at attention in the square below. “We risk not hearing the cry of pain and distress of so many of our brothers and sisters.”
Francis warned against the epidemic of withdrawing and isolating oneself, instead urging dialogue to resolve global conflicts. He prayed specifically for those most affected by the virus, such as women and children subjected to increased abuse due to the lockdowns.
“Son of God, comfort the victims of domestic violence, which has become more prevalent in this time of the pandemic. Give hope to young children and adolescents who have been bullied or abused, “he stated.
He prayed for “comfort and warmth” for lonely older people and healthcare workers who “generously devote themselves” to helping the sick.
“Grant health to the sick, and inspire all good men and women to seek the best solutions to the current health crisis and its consequences,” he said. “Open hearts to assure that necessary medical care, particularly vaccines, is provided to those who need it most.”
After celebrating a “Midnight Mass” for about 2,000 people, a fraction of the basilica’s capacity, Francis gave his speech. The service started at 7:30 p.m., a nod to the pope’s endurance and a carryover from last year when the service had to end before Italy’s COVID-19 curfew.
Italy set a daily pandemic record for the second day in a row on Friday, with 50,599 new cases. Another 141 people died, bringing the total number of people killed in the pandemic in Italy to 136,386.
With the arrival of the omicron variant in Italy, the Vatican secretary of state issued a new vaccine mandate this week, extending it to all Vatican employees except those who have recovered from COVID-19.
Previously, only employees who had direct contact with the public, such as Vatican Museums staff and Swiss Guards, were required to be vaccinated. Other Vatican employees would gain access to their offices if they passed regular tests. There is no longer a test-out exemption.
Source: CTV News
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