Pope urges priests to visit those suffering from coronavirus

Pope Francis, gave his first general audience from the Vatican - virtually - on Wednesday amid Italy's coronavirus lockdown, thanking medical staff and telling the world not to forget Syrian refugees.

On Tuesday during a livestreamed Mass, the pontiff urged Catholic priests to visit those with the new virus. Churches and other sites have closed until April 3, just ahead of Easter.

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“Let us pray to the Lord also for our priests, that they may have the courage to go out and go to the sick people bringing the strength of God’s word and the Eucharist, and accompany the health workers and volunteers in this work that they are doing,” Francis said.

Faithful watch Pope Francis deliver the Angelus prayer on a giant screen, in St. Peter's Square, at the Vatican, Sunday, March 8, 2020. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)

Faithful watch Pope Francis deliver the Angelus prayer on a giant screen, in St. Peter's Square, at the Vatican, Sunday, March 8, 2020. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)

As the coronavirus spread in Italy and the pope canceled travel, many worried about his health, but the Vatican reported that he had a "light cold" and tested negative for the coronavirus.

One person within the Vatican City walls tested positive and five people who were in contact with that individual are under precautionary quarantine.

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But on Wednesday, the 83-year-old leader of the Catholic Church said the world must not forget Syrian refugees on the Greek-Turkish border despite "this pain, this epidemic."

“They are a people who have been suffering for years," he said. "They have to escape from war, hunger and illness. Let’s not forget our brothers and sisters, so many children who are suffering there."

Feb. 26, 2020: Pope Francis wipes his nose during the Ash Wednesday Mass inside the Basilica of Santa Sabina in Rome.  (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)

Feb. 26, 2020: Pope Francis wipes his nose during the Ash Wednesday Mass inside the Basilica of Santa Sabina in Rome.  (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)

The Diocese of Rome canceled Masses and called on the faithful to observe a day of prayer and fasting Wednesday.

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“In addition to fasting … we want to be close, with a sign of almsgiving by collecting offerings that we will donate in support of the health personnel who are spending generously and sacrifice in the care of the sick,” Cardinal Angelo De Donatis, vicar general of Rome, said, as well as "to ask of God help for our city, for Italy, and for the world."