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Pope calls for solidarity in Easter message amid virus lockdown

Pope Francis has called for solidarity across the world to confront the “epochal challenge” posed by the coronavirus pandemic, in his traditional Easter address on Sunday.

Pope Francis has called for solidarity across the world to confront the “epochal challenge” posed by the coronavirus pandemic, in his traditional Easter address on Sunday.

“The European Union is presently facing an epochal challenge, on which will depend not only its future but that of the whole world,” said the 83-year-old pontiff addressing the world’s 1.3 billion Catholics from an empty Saint Paul’s Cathedral at a ceremony attended by just a handful of priests.

Pope Francis broke with centuries of tradition to livestream Easter Sunday mass to those suffering in the solitude of a coronavirus lockdown that forced the world’s Catholics to improvise on their holiest day.

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

The pope urged political leaders, in particular, to give hope and opportunity to laid-off workers, and called for sanctions relief, debt forgiveness and ceasefires to calm conflicts and financial crises around the globe.

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”.

The Vatican’s entrance is sealed off by armed police wearing facemasks and rubber gloves, as the death toll in Italy reached 19,468 with more than 152,000 confirmed cases. 

Francis himself has reportedly been tested twice for COVID-19 since coming down with a cold at the end of February.

Rome and the rest of Italy have been living under forced confinement since early March due to the pandemic, whose official death toll has soared past 100,000.

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