January 26, 2020 / 12:05 PM / a month ago

Pope Francis praises China's efforts to contain coronavirus

FILE PHOTO: Pope Francis greets the faithful during the weekly general audience at the Vatican, January 15, 2020. Vatican Media/Handout via REUTERS

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Pope Francis praised China’s “great commitment” to contain the coronavirus outbreak on Sunday and said he was praying for the dead, the sick, and families of victims.

“I would like also to be close to and pray for the people who are sick because of the virus that has spread through China,” Francis told tens of thousands of people in St. Peter’s Square for his weekly message and blessing.

“May the Lord welcome the dead into his peace, comfort families and sustain the great commitment by the Chinese community that has already been put in place to combat the epidemic,” he said.

Relations between the Vatican and Beijing have improved since September, 2018 when the two sides signed a historic pact on the naming of bishops. Conservative Catholics have objected to the pact, accusing the Vatican of having sold out to the communist government.

The ability of the new coronavirus to spread is strengthening and infections could continue to rise, China’s National Health Commission said on Sunday, with nearly 2,000 people in China infected and 56 killed by the disease.

Reporting by Philip Pullella; Editing by Frances Kerry

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