Vatican City, Mar 31, 2020 / 04:15 am (CNA).- Vatican flags are flying at half-staff on Tuesday in solidarity with the victims of the coronavirus in Italy and worldwide.
“Today, in solidarity with Italy, the Holy See will display flags at half-mast in mourning to express its closeness to the victims of the pandemic in Italy and in the world, to their families, and to all those who generously struggle for its end,” Holy See Press Office Director Matteo Bruni told journalists March 31.
Pope Francis met with the Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte at the Vatican the day prior as the Italian government attempts to confront an outbreak which has led Italy to have the highest number of coronavirus mortalities in the world.
More than 11,500 people have died of COVID-19 in Italy after a total of 101,739 people have been documented by the Italian Ministry of Health as infected with the coronavirus. Throughout the world, more than 37,800 people have died, according to Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center.
Italy was the first country outside of China to implement a mandatory lockdown in response to the coronavirus outbreak. Conte announced the lockdown on March 9, and has since said that the national quarantine will be extended beyond the original April 3 deadline.
The Italian government has suspended all public religious gatherings, including funerals, throughout the country, and all restaurants, schools, and non-essential businesses remain closed.
Pope Francis also met with the mayor of Rome Virginia Raggi on March 28 at the Vatican. The Holy See did not release any further details about either of the private meetings.
Lazio, the Italian region in which Rome is located, has had 2,914 documented cases of COVID-19, including Rome’s vicar general, Cardinal Angelo De Donatis.
There have been six coronavirus cases connected to Vatican City. The Holy See has tested at least 170 employees for COVID-19, according to the Holy See Press Office, which confirmed that Pope Francis does not have the coronavirus on March 28.
Vatican liturgies for Holy Week and Easter will take place without the presence of people this year due to the coronavirus pandemic, and will be broadcast live for those quarantined at home.
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