Pope Francis used his Christmas message to say that coronavirus vaccines must be available for all, and pleaded with states to cooperate in the race to emerge from the pandemic.
“Today, in this time of darkness and uncertainty during the pandemic, different lights of hope appear, like the discovery of the vaccines … they must be available to everyone,” the Pope said Friday during his traditional Urbi et Orbi (to the city and the world) message at the Vatican.
“I beg all those in charge of states, of companies, of international bodies … to promote cooperation and not competition and to seek a solution for everyone, vaccines for all, especially for the most vulnerable and needy in all regions of the globe.”
Pope Francis called for “generosity and support,” particularly towards those experiencing unemployment, hardship and domestic violence during the pandemic.
He spoke from the Vatican Apostolic Palace – as opposed to his balcony overlooking St. Peter’s Square, where he traditionally issues the address from.
The leader of the Catholic Church also used the Christmas Day message to call for an end to conflicts throughout the Middle East and Africa, as well as an easing of suffering across the American continent.
The Pope also held a sparsely attended Christmas Eve mass on Thursday in the rear section of St. Peter’s Basilica.
Due to Covid-19 restrictions only 200 people were present, including 30 cardinals.
The Christmas Eve mass is a landmark event in Vatican City. It is usually held in the main section of the basilica, according to Reuters, and usually attracts up to 10,000 people.
Everyone except the Pope and those singing in the choir wore masks and the event ended earlier than usual so people could return home before Italy’s 10 p.m. nationwide curfew.
This year the Pope stressed the importance of helping the needy, pointing out in his homily that Jesus was born an outcast.
“The Son of God was born an outcast, in order to tell us that every outcast is a child of God,” he said.
Friday’s blessing concludes a muted year for the Pope, whose activities have been heavily curtailed by the pandemic.
He held his regular Wednesday audience online from March to September and in the spring celebrated Palm Sunday mass in an empty church.
Italy was one of the worst hit countries during the first wave of Covid-19 in Europe. The country’s government has enforce its strictest level of Covid-19 measures nationwide over the Christmas and new year period to avert a third wave.