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FILE - In this photo taken on March 27, 2020, Pope Francis, white figure standing alone at center, delivers an Urbi et orbi prayer from the empty St. Peter's Square, at the Vatican. If ever there was a defining moment of Pope Francis during the coronavirus pandemic, it came on March 27, the day Italy recorded its single biggest daily jump in fatalities. From the rain-slicked promenade of St. Peter’s Basilica, Francis said the virus had shown that we’re all in this together, that we need each other and need to reassess our priorities. (Yara Nardi/Pool Photo via AP )

What Happens When Pandemic Locks Down a Globe-Trotting Pope?

ROME (AP) — On the March day that Italy recorded its single biggest jump in coronavirus fatalities, Pope Francis emerged from lockdown to offer an extraordinary prayer and plea to his flock to reassess their priorities, arguing the virus had proved they needed one another.

Francis’ words from the rain-slicked promenade of St. Peter’s Basilica encapsulated the core messages he has emphasized during his seven-year pontificate: solidarity, social justice and care for the most vulnerable.

But the dramatic moment also underscored how isolated the pope had become during the COVID-19 emergency and a sustained season of opposition from his conservative critics: He was utterly alone before an invisible enemy, preaching to a hauntingly empty piazza.  …

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