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In an empty St Peter's Basilica, Pope Francis calls for solidarity to face 'epochal challenge' of Covid-19

“This is not a time for self-centeredness, because the challenge we are facing is shared by all,” the pope said.

Pope Francis delivers his Urbi et Orbi message today.
Pope Francis delivers his Urbi et Orbi message today.
Image: Andread Solaro/PA Images

POPE FRANCIS HAS called for solidarity the world over to confront the “epochal challenge” posed by the coronavirus pandemic.

He urged political leaders in particular to give hope and opportunity to laid-off workers.

Francis made his traditional Easter address today in an empty St Peter’s Basilica and called for sanctions relief, debt forgiveness and ceasefires to calm conflicts and financial crises around the globe.

He offered special prayers for the sick, the dead, the elderly, refugees and the poor. He also offered thanks and encouragement to doctors and nurses who have worked “to the point of exhaustion and not infrequently at the expense of their own health”.

Francis urged the European Union to step up to the “epochal challenge” posed by Covid-19 and resist the tendency of selfishness and division.

He recalled that Europe rose again after the Second World War “thanks to a concrete spirit of solidarity that enabled it to overcome the rivalries of the past”.

virus-outbreak-vatican-easter St Peter's Square has been closed off to visitors. Source: Andrew Medichini/PA Images

He said: “This is not a time for self-centeredness, because the challenge we are facing is shared by all, without distinguishing between persons.”

Last year, the pope’s Easter Sunday Mass and Urbi et Orbi blessing drew 70,000 to Saint Peter’s Square.

The Vatican’s entrance is now sealed off by armed police wearing facemasks and rubber gloves.

The pope has openly admitted that he was struggling along with everyone else to make sense of these extraordinary times.

“We have to respond to our confinement with all our creativity,” Francis said in an interview published by several Catholic newspapers this week.

“We can either get depressed and alienated … or we can get creative.”

With reporting from AFP

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