Pope Francis today begged God to end the coronavirus pandemic – as Italy’s COVID-19 death toll jumped by nearly a thousand in just 24 hours.
The 83-year-old pontiff clasped his hands in prayer for an ultra-rare “Urbi et orbi” blessing – usually only given on Christmas and easter.
Standing in a deserted St Peter’s Square, he pleaded: “Lord, may you bless the world, give health to our bodies and comfort our hearts.
“You ask us not to be afraid. Yet our faith is weak and we are fearful.
“But you, Lord, will not leave us at the mercy of the storm.
"For weeks now it has been evening. Thick darkness has gathered over our squares, our streets and our cities; it has taken over our lives, filling everything with a deafening silence and a distressing void.
"We find ourselves afraid and lost. Like the disciples in the Gospel we were caught off guard by an unexpected, turbulent storm.
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“We have realised that we are on the same boat, all of us fragile and disoriented, but at the same time important and needed.
“Lord, may you bless the world, give health to our bodies and comfort our hearts.”
His prayer comes as Italy’s death toll skyrocketed to 9.134 – a jump of 919.
Italy's government has brought in severe measures to try and halt the spread of the virus, whose epicentre in the country is in the northern region of Lombardy near Milan.
But despite putting the country on lockdown more than two weeks ago, so far it has been unable to flatten the curve of new cases.
It has seen the highest fatality rate from the disease, with 8.6% of patients dying from the virus.
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