Pope leaves Vatican, prays for end to pandemic at 2 churches

Pope Francis waves briefly from his window overlooking St. Peter's Square after delivering the Angelus prayer on a giant screen in St. Peter's Square aimed at discouraging crowds, at the Vatican, Sunday, March 8, 2020. (Source: AP Photo/Andrew Medichini/AP)

VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis has left the Vatican to make a surprise visit to two churches.

The move Sunday came even as Italian health authorities demanded that people to stay home as much as possible to battle the country’s severe coronavirus outbreak, The Vatican says the pope’s trip included a brief stroll on a main Rome street to pray for the end of the coronavirus pandemic.

The pope did a stretch of the street “as of on a pilgrimage,” according to Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni said.

Francis prayed in the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore, then went to a church which has a crucifix carried in a 1522 procession in Rome when the city was stricken with plague.

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