Dramatic photos show the pope delivering an 'extraordinary' prayer of hope to a hauntingly empty St. Peter's Square during Italy's coronavirus lockdown

Pope skitch

Reuters

So vast is the square that the pope is barely visible in this image.

  • Pope Francis on Friday night delivered a message of hope to the world amid the coronavirus pandemic.
  • He did so in a hauntingly empty St. Peter's Square in the Vatican, as Italy is completely locked down to stop the virus spreading.
  • "Like the disciples in the Gospel we were caught off guard by an unexpected, turbulent storm," the pope said, referencing the Gospel of St. Mark.
  • The pictures of the address are stunning, and you can see a selection below.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

With Italy on total lockdown amid its devastating coronavirus outbreak, worshippers in the country and around the world are unable to attend churches, or even leave their homes.

On Friday evening, Pope Francis, the leader of the Catholic Church, took the extraordinary step of delivering an address in front of an empty St. Peter's Square in the Vatican, leading a prayer of hope for Christians around the world battling to stop the virus and save lives.Advertisement

The Urbi et Orbi service delivered by Pope Francis to the world is usually only given at Easter and Christmas, the holiest days in Catholicism.

Pope Francis, however, took the extraordinary step of giving the prayers amid the worst pandemic in a century.

In the rapidly fading evening light, the pope, dressed in the papacy's signature white vestments, was stunningly set against the darkening stone of the monumental St. Peter's Basilica.
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The scene made for a dramatic set of images, captured by Reuters photographers Yara Nardi and Gugliemo Mangiapane.

See a handful of the best pictures below:Do you have a personal experience with the coronavirus you'd like to share? Or a tip on how your town or community is handling the pandemic? Please email covidtips@businessinsider.com and tell us your story.Advertisement

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The prayer, known officially as the "Urbi et Orbi" — meaning "From the city [of Rome] to the world — is usually delivered only twice a year, at Easter and Christmas.

The prayer, known officially as the "Urbi et Orbi" — meaning "From the city [of Rome] to the world — is usually delivered only twice a year, at Easter and Christmas.

Pope Francis, however, decided to deliver the address as a message of hope to Catholics around the world battling the coronavirus outbreak. The service was titled: "An Extraordinary Prayer in the Time of Pandemic."

Pope Francis, however, decided to deliver the address as a message of hope to Catholics around the world battling the coronavirus outbreak. The service was titled: "An Extraordinary Prayer in the Time of Pandemic."
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During the address, Pope Francis read from a passage in the gospel of Matthew when Jesus and his disciples were struck by a sudden storm while sailing on the Sea of Galilee. In the gospel, Jesus implores: "Peace! Be still!" The storm subsides and the disciples are saved from death.

During the address, Pope Francis read from a passage in the gospel of Matthew when Jesus and his disciples were struck by a sudden storm while sailing on the Sea of Galilee. In the gospel, Jesus implores: "Peace! Be still!" The storm subsides and the disciples are saved from death.

"Like the disciples in the Gospel we were caught off guard by an unexpected, turbulent storm," Pope Francis said while standing under an awning in empty St. Peter's Square in the Vatican.

"Like the disciples in the Gospel we were caught off guard by an unexpected, turbulent storm," Pope Francis said while standing under an awning in empty St. Peter's Square in the Vatican.
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"We have realized 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," he said.

"We have realized 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," he said.

You can read the full text of Pope Francis' address here.

The picture below illustrates the scale of the empty square, with the pope himself visible only as a small white dot in the center of the image.

The picture below illustrates the scale of the empty square, with the pope himself visible only as a small white dot in the center of the image.
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With all of Italy, including Rome, on lockdown, and church services currently banned, the pope took the extraordinary step of giving an address without any physical audience.

With all of Italy, including Rome, on lockdown, and church services currently banned, the pope took the extraordinary step of giving an address without any physical audience.

In more normal times, such an address would likely have been attended by many thousands. The picture below shows Pope Francis delivering the Urbi et Orbi prayers on Easter 2019.

In more normal times, such an address would likely have been attended by many thousands. The picture below shows Pope Francis delivering the Urbi et Orbi prayers on Easter 2019.
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Although nobody but the pope and a single assistant was physically present at the service, millions watched on TV around the world. The image below shows the McClenahan family in Washington state watching the address.

Although nobody but the pope and a single assistant was physically present at the service, millions watched on TV around the world. The image below shows the McClenahan family in Washington state watching the address.

Soon after the coronavirus outbreak spread to Europe, it was briefly feared that the pope himself had the disease after being seen coughing and blowing his nose during important services. It is, however, not believed that he has, or has had, the disease.

Soon after the coronavirus outbreak spread to Europe, it was briefly feared that the pope himself had the disease after being seen coughing and blowing his nose during important services. It is, however, not believed that he has, or has had, the disease.

Source: TIME

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