VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – Pope Francis on Tuesday urged people to obey rules aimed at preventing a devastating second wave of infections as their leaders begin to ease coronavirus lockdowns.
Francis spoke at the start of his daily private morning Mass, where he has been dedicating brief opening comments to various themes related to coronavirus.
From Europe to the United States to Asia, officials have been dealing with tensions and criticism of stay-at-home orders.
“In these days in which we are starting to have regulations to come out of quarantine, let us pray to the Lord that he gives his people, all of us, the grace of prudence and obedience to the regulations so that the pandemic does not return,” the leader of the world’s 1.3 billion Roman Catholic said.
Francis has been in lockdown himself, with his events streamed on the internet with no public participation.
His comments were particularly relevant in Italy, where Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte’s plans for a staged end to Europe’s longest lockdown has been criticised by those who say it is too slow and limited.
Italy, which at 27,000 has the world’s second-highest number of coronavirus deaths, will allow factories and building sites to reopen and permit limited family visits in the first stage starting on May 4.
One regional governor broke with Conte, allowing more freedom of movement than allowed in the national plan.
Even Italy’s Catholic bishops criticised Conte for not lifting a ban on holding Masses at the start of the exit strategy.
Conte has said he will review their demands and come up with a plan soon to allow Masses to be held under safe conditions.
(Reporting by Philip Pullella; editing by Philippa Fletcher)