Pope Francis slowly walked alone in the rain, Friday, through an empty St.
Peter's Square... where tens of thousands of people usually gather.
The eerie scene - marking the start of a solitary prayer service the Vatican called "An Extraordinary Prayer in the Time of Pandemic" - in which the pope urged the world to see the coronavirus crisis as a test of solidarity.
(SOUNDBITE) (Italian) POPE FRANCIS SAYING: "...Like the disciples in the Gospel we were caught off guard by an unexpected, turbulent storm.
We have realised that we are on the same boat, all of us fragile and disoriented, but at the same time important and needed, all of us called to row together, each of us in need of comforting the other.
On this boat... are all of us.
All of us." The pope also praised essential workers on the frontline.
(SOUNDBITE) (Italian) POPE FRANCIS SAYING: "...It is the life in the Spirit that can redeem, value and demonstrate how our lives are woven together and sustained by ordinary people - often forgotten people - who do not appear in newspaper and magazine headlines nor on the grand catwalks of the latest show, but who without any doubt are in these very days writing the decisive events of our time: doctors, nurses, supermarket employees, cleaners, caregivers, providers of transport, law and order forces, volunteers, priests, religious men and women and so very many others who have understood that no one reaches salvation by themselves." The somber prayer came on the same day Italian officials announced that the country's coronavirus death toll surpassed China's... surging past 9,000.
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