Pope Francis is celebrating Ash Wednesday as usual, even though other masses in Italy were canceled over fears of the coronavirus outbreak, Fox News reports.
In St. Peter’s Square, the pontiff held his general audience as thousands of people gathered, some with face masks on.
“I wish, again, to express my closeness to those who are ill with coronavirus and to health-care workers who are caring for them,” the pope said.
Pope Francis Marks Ash Wednesday Mask-Free as Some Italian Towns Cancel Services Amid Coronavirus Outbreak https://t.co/uKlpJ67c2n
— TIMEWorld (@TIMEWorld) February 26, 2020
In the European Union, which prides itself on open borders, new cases were recorded in Austria, Croatia, France, Germany, Greeceand Spain. Most were tied to Italy, where the authorities have been struggling to contain an outbreak that has infected at least 325 people, most of them in the north near Milan, The New York Times reports.
Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte has called for calm in the wake of the outbreak.
“It’s time to turn down the tone, we need to stop panic,” he said, according to the Italian newspaper La Repubblica.
For our Lenten coverage, click here: The Meaning of ‘Giving up’ for Lent