The Catholic Church has today granted forgiveness – under certain conditions – for the sins of the faithful struck by coronavirus.
A decree published by the Vatican on Friday also covers healthcare workers and those who pray for their wellbeing.
Relatives who care for their sick family members may also be forgiven.
The conditions include the sick saying a certain number of prayers or following important celebrations from a distance.
Those who pray for the caregivers’ wellbeing must also read the Bible ‘for at least half an hour’.
Vatican City itself has confirmed one infection and closed down St Peter’s Square to prevent the spread of the virus.
The Vatican Museums are also closed, including the Sistine Chapel, in yet another blow to Italy’s valuable tourism industry.
The Vatican, which is surrounded by Rome, has imposed restrictions on movement and contact among its personnel in a bid to contain the virus.
Pope Francis has been celebrating Mass by himself to keep his distance, although he has urged other clergymen to ‘have the courage’ to visit the sick.
The 83-year-old pontiff was reportedly tested for the virus as a precaution after coming down with a cold last month.
His apparent illness raised alarms after he had hugged and kissed worshippers in St Peter’s Square after coughing and blowing his nose in church.
But he is thought to have tested negative for coronavirus, although the Vatican has never confirmed or denied this.
Francis has enjoyed generally good health, although he had part of one lung removed as a younger man. AFP