Pope calls for help for migrants, cancels prayer due to pandemic

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ROME – Pope Francis called on authorities around the world to do more to help migrants and refugees, in comments to the faithful on the first Sunday of Advent.

Directing his words towards governments and militaries, Francis said in St Peter’s Square that he was greatly pained by reported deaths in the English Channel, on the Polish-Belarusian border and in the Mediterranean.

The pope plans to travel to Cyprus and then Greece on a trip due to start on Thursday (Dec 2), during which he also hopes to meet with refugees.

Amid rising case numbers, he cancelled a public prayer due to be held in Rome’s city centre for the Feast of the Immaculate Conception on December 8. He traditionally prays at the Marian column on the Piazza di Spagna near the Spanish Steps.

The Holy See said he cancelled the prayer in order to prevent crowds and increase the risk of spreading COVID-19, in a statement on Saturday (27) evening.

Instead, the pope will hold the prayer in private. He cancelled the same prayer last year due to the spread of the virus, but then made a surprise trip to the statue of Mary in the early hours of the morning.

-dpa

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