Coronavirus: Pope Francis calls for debt relief and an end to sanctions

Pope Francis implored world leaders not to forget the vulnerable in a call for global solidarity during the coronavirus pandemic.

He called for a “relaxation” of international sanctions and a “reduction, if not cancellation” of the debt of poor countries during his Easter Sunday blessing.

These sanctions “make it difficult for the countries on which they have been imposed to provide adequate support to their citizens,” Pope Francis said.

“Now is not the time for indifference, because the whole world is suffering and must be united to face the pandemic,” he said, saying it was a challenge “shared by all”.

He spoke during a surprisingly empty Easter service at St. Peter’s Basilica due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Normally, St. Peter’s Square, the square leading to the Basilica, would be filled with worshipers on Christianity’s most important holiday.

Thousands of churches across Europe, the United States and the world have instead planned “virtual” Easter services because of the virus.

Pope Francis said the European Union in particular faces a “period challenge” due to the virus outbreak.

“After the Second World War, this continent was able to recover, thanks to a concrete spirit of solidarity which enabled it to overcome the rivalries of the past”, he declared.

“It is more urgent than ever, especially in the current circumstances, that these rivalries do not regain strength, but that all recognize each other as part of the same family and support each other.”

The European continent has been the hardest hit by the pandemic with more than 800,000 cases and more than 70,000 deaths.

The pontiff also reminded his followers of the other horrors of the world, including the conflicts in Syria and Yemen and the plight of refugees fleeing war, droughts and famine.

“Indifference, egocentricity, division and oblivion are not words we want to hear right now. We want to ban these words forever,” Pope Francis said.

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