Pope Francis Urges Priests to Visit Coronavirus Victims to 'Bring the Strength of God's Word'

Pope Francis has said that priests should go out and visit those who have been sickened by coronavirus to show solidarity with health workers.

In a sermon on Tuesday within the walled-city state of the Vatican, the head of the Catholic church called on his clergy to support the medical personnel who were dealing with the COVID-19 epidemic.

"Let us pray to the Lord also for our priests, that they may have the courage to go out and go to the sick people to bring the strength of God's word and the Eucharist and accompany the health workers and volunteers in this work that they are doing," the pontiff said during his livestreamed mass, according to the Associated Press.

Pope Francis
Pope Francis waves to the faithful from his window after the live-broadcast of his Sunday Angelus prayer at the Vatican on March 8, 2020. He has urged priests to visit those sick from the coronavirus in Italy which is in a nationwide shutdown. ALBERTO PIZZOLI/Getty Images

Earlier this month, the 83-year-old, who frequently comes into close contact with the public, tested negative for coronavirus. He had been unable to attend events for several days after he had been seen coughing and blowing his nose during an Ash Wednesday service.

The pope's comments come after Italy's prime minister Giuseppe Conte took the unprecedented move on Monday of extending a lockdown that had been in place in the northern region of Lombardy and 14 provinces, to the whole country.

Travel within Italy has been restricted and there is a ban on public gatherings. The AP reported that the Vatican was respecting the lockdown. Newsweek has contacted the director of the Holy See Press Office, Matteo Bruni, for further comment.

On Sunday, Bruni had said that one person had tested positive and five others are under quarantine in the Vatican which was co-ordinating its efforts with the Italian authorities to stop the spread of the illness.

"These measures include the precautionary closure, until 3 April 2020, of the Vatican Museums, the Excavation Office, the Museum of the Pontifical Villas and the museum centres of the Pontifical Basilicas," he said in a statement.

Today the Lord calls all of us sinners to dialogue with Him: "Don't be afraid." "Though your sins be like scarlet, they may become white as snow" (Is 1:18). #HomilySantaMarta https://t.co/B59R49myGG

— Pope Francis (@Pontifex) March 10, 2020

The Italian Bishops' Conference (CEI) also said it would comply with the Italian government's request to suspend civil and religious ceremonies throughout the country, also until 3 April.

In a statement the CEI said that even though the measures would mean "suffering and hardship for pastors, priests and the faithful" they were necessary because of the importance "to contribute to safeguarding public health at this time," the Catholic News Agency reported.

On Tuesday, British Airways canceled all its flights to and from Italy, with the country's deputy economy minister Laura Castelli telling Radio Anch'io that mortgage payments would also be suspended to ease financial pressure on households, the BBC reported.

The graphic below, provided by Statista, illustrates the spread of COVID-19 across the world as of March 10.

Statista chart on COVID-19
The Statista chart illustrates the extent of COVID-10 cases globally. Statista/Johns Hopkins University

World Health Organization advice for avoiding spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19)Hygiene advice

  • Clean hands frequently with soap and water, or alcohol-based hand rub.
  • Wash hands after coughing or sneezing; when caring for the sick; before; during and after food preparation; before eating; after using the toilet; when hands are visibly dirty; and after handling animals or waste.
  • Maintain at least 1 meter (3 feet) distance from anyone who is coughing or sneezing.
  • Avoid touching your hands, nose and mouth. Do not spit in public.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or bent elbow when coughing or sneezing. Discard the tissue immediately and clean your hands.

Medical advice

  • If you feel unwell (fever, cough, difficulty breathing) seek medical care early and call local health authorities in advance.
  • Stay up to date on COVID-19 developments issued by health authorities and follow their guidance.

Mask usage

  • Healthy individuals only need to wear a mask if taking care of a sick person.
  • Wear a mask if you are coughing or sneezing.
  • Masks are effective when used in combination with frequent hand cleaning.
  • Do not touch the mask while wearing it. Clean hands if you touch the mask.
  • Learn how to properly put on, remove and dispose of masks. Clean hands after disposing of mask.
  • Do not reuse single-use masks.