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Pope voices support for virus victims in livestream message

By AFP - Mar 08,2020 - Last updated at Mar 08,2020

People watch a screen live-broadcasting Pope Francis' Sunday Angelus prayer on St Peter's Square at the Vatican on Sunday (AFP photo)

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis expressed solidarity on Sunday with the victims of the novel coronavirus in his first livestreamed prayer from the Vatican.

The disease raging across Italy forced the 83-year-old pontiff to break with centuries of tradition and revert to technology to deliver his Angelus Prayer and weekly message to the world's 1.3 billion Catholics.

The Vatican said Pope Francis was following the orders of Italian authorities who wanted to keep down the number of people who usually converge on Saint Peter's Square to catch a glimpse of the pontiff at his Vatican window.

"I am close through prayer with the people who suffer from the current coronavirus epidemic," the 83-year-old Pope said in a message recorded at the Vatican library.

His address was aired live on a screen before a smaller than usual crowd on the square and via the Vatican website to the wider world.

"I join my brother bishops in encouraging the faithful to live this difficult moment with the strength of faith, the certainty of hope and the fervour of charity," the Pope said.

"Getting to see the pope in the end was a bit of a bonus," Englishman Steve Povey said after watching the historic livestream airing of the pope's message on the square's big screen.

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