Pope Francis has prayed that priests would find the courage to visit those who are sick and offer accompaniment to health care professionals and volunteers working during the coronavirus epidemic.
During a live broadcast of his daily morning Mass, Pope Francis again prayed for the many people who have fallen ill because of the virus and for health care workers.
"Let us also pray to the Lord for our priests, so that they have the courage to go out and go to those who are sick, bringing the strength of the word of God and the Eucharist and to accompany health care workers and volunteers in the work they are doing," he said at the start of the Mass at the Domus Sanctae Marthae today.
The Italian government issued a measure late last night extending "red zone" restrictions already in place in the north to all of Italy, urging people to stay at home and avoid all unessential travel as part of already implemented plans to prevent the further spread of the virus.
The move came as Italy became the nation with the second-highest number of deaths related to the coronavirus and the second-highest number of confirmed cases in the world with 9,172 known infections, according to the World Health Organisation March 10. As of March 9, the virus has claimed the lives of 463 people in Italy, the Italian health ministry said.
The daily Masses, normally private, were being broadcast live on Vatican News and the Vatican YouTube channel to help people still be united in prayer with the pope, the Vatican said.
In his homily, the pope reflected on the first reading in which God tells the prophet Isaiah that even though people's sins are like "scarlet", the Lord will make them "white as snow" if people are willing and obey his command to set things right.
The pope invited people to use the time of Lent to speak to God honestly about their sins because he is able "to change everything".
Like Adam and Eve, people often try to hide from God when they realise they have sinned, he said. Instead, "do not be afraid to come and talk, have courage even in your misery" and shame, the pope said.
Another way people try to hide is by putting on appearances of not being a sinner and by proudly showing off their adherence to God's laws or their acts of charity, he said.
"Vanity never heals. Rather it is poison, bringing disease to the heart, that hardness of heart that tells you, 'No, don't turn to the Lord, don't go. Stay," believing oneself as self-sufficient.
"Speak with the Lord. He knows, he knows who we are. We know too, but vanity always calls us to cover ourselves" and hide.