Pope walks through empty streets, visits churches amid lockdown in Italy

Pope walks through empty streets, visits churches amid lockdown in Italy
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Pope FrancisPope FrancisPope thanked Texas priest who took a knee at protest to pray for George Floyd Pope condemns racism, says street violence is 'self-defeating' The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Trump tweets as tensions escalate across US MORE walked the otherwise empty streets of Rome on Sunday, and visited two churches amid Italy's lockdown due to the coronavirus.

The pope, who left the Vatican unannounced after delivering a blessing from his balcony in St. Peter’s Square, visited both the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore and St. Marcello church, Metro reported.

At St. Marcello, the pope prayed before a crucifix used in a procession during a 1522 plague outbreak in Rome, according to the British newspaper.

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In a statement, the Vatican said Francis prayed for an end to the global pandemic as well as for those afflicted, their families and health care providers and the employers keeping essential retail outlets such as food stores and pharmacies open.

Images released by the Vatican showed the pope and his security detail walking the typically busy Via del Corso.

The visits came after the Vatican announced Holy Week and Easter services would be held without a public audience for the first time in modern history.

Italy has been particularly hard-hit by the illness, with the nation’s civil protection head, Angelo Borelli, saying Sunday that it has had 24,747 recorded cases and 1,809 deaths.