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“I asked the Lord to stop the epidemic,” says pope about his pilgrimage outside Vatican

POPE FRANCIS
VATICAN MEDIA | AFP
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For non-believers, Francis encourages them to find hope in the love of the people around them

Pope Francis spoke briefly with the Italian newspaper la Repubblica, saying that when he left the Vatican on March 15 to stop at St. Mary Major and at San Marcello on the Corso, “I asked the Lord to stop the epidemic: ‘Lord, stop it with your hand.’ That’s what I prayed for.”

The Holy Father also advised “small gestures” that we can offer to those around us, everything from a hot meal to a caress or a phone call. “We must understand that in small things lies our treasure.”

The pope said that this time of quarantine is a time to “discover a new closeness.” He spoke of it as a time for “more concrete relationships made of attention and patience,” instead of merely virtual relationships.

In their homes, families often eat together in great silence, but not as a result of listening to each other, rather because the parents watch television while they eat, and children are on their mobile phones. They look like monks, all isolated from each other. Here there is no communication, whereas listening to each other is important because that’s how we can understand the needs, efforts, desires of the other. This language made of concrete gestures must be safeguarded. In my opinion, the pain of these days should open us up to this concreteness.

And as he has said various times at his morning Mass, the pope thanked those who are fighting to save lives. As well, he said, “I ask everyone to stay close to those who have lost loved ones, to be close to them in every possible way. Consolation must now be everyone’s commitment.”

The pope also offered a word for those who do not have faith, in answer to the journalist’s question:

They are all God’s children and are looked upon by Him. Even those who have not yet met God, those who do not have the gift of faith, can find their way through this, in the good things they believe in: they can find strength in love for their children, for their family, for their brothers and sisters.

One can say: ‘I cannot pray because I do not believe.’ But at the same time, however, he can believe in the love of the people around him, and thus find hope.

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