Yesterday afternoon, Pope Francis took to the streets of Italy to pray in two Rome churches about the coronavirus. The coronavirus pandemic has infected people spanning 110 different countries and is threatening disarray on the world’s economy. Italy has been one of the countries hit the hardest, with an infection rate of over 24,500 and almost 2,000 deaths. The country is under strict lockdown orders.

The Pope left the Vatican at 4:00pm and returned at 5:30pm, after visiting the Basilica of Saint Mary Major and the church of St. Marcello. He first rode by car with a minimal escort through the very empty streets. At the Basilica, he prayed to the icon “Salus Populi Romani”, which is dedicated to the health of the people.

Pope Francis prays before this icon often including before and after every trip he takes abroad. He also came here to pray before it on the morning after his election as pope. He asked for the icon to help “to rid the world of the pandemic”, as well as all the families affected by the virus. The Pope also asked for safety for all the health care workers.

The pope continued his mini-pilgrimage by riding to the Via del Corso. When he arrived at this street, the pope got out of the car and walked to the church of St. Marcello, which is the home to the venerated wooden 15th-century crucifix that was carried in procession through the city in 1552 as a plea for God to end the “Great Plague.” He spent time in great prayer in front of the crucifix before returning back to the Vatican.

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