March 27 (UPI) -- Pope Francis gave a special prayer Friday evening in the Vatican, seeking an end to the coronavirus pandemic, which has killed nearly 27,000 people.
He celebrated the Urbi et Orbi blessing, which is normally held only on Christmas and Easter, in a deserted St. Peter's Square. The prayer was live streamed on TV, the radio and online.
"We find ourselves afraid and lost," the pope said. "We were caught off-guard by an unexpected, turbulent storm. We have realized that we are on the same boat, all of us fragile and disoriented ... all of us called to row together, each of us in need of comforting the other."
The blessing came as Italy reported its highest single-day death toll increase Friday -- 919. The country's overall death toll as of Friday evening was 9,100, and case total was 86,000, according to figures compiled by Johns Hopkins University.
As part of the blessing, Pope Francis granted plenary indulgences to those with COVID-19, as well as those in quarantine and healthcare workers.
He said God asks the faithful "to reawaken and put into practice that solidarity and hope capable of giving strength, support and meaning to these hours when everything seems to be floundering."
"Because this is God's strength: turning to the good everything that happens to us, even the bad things. He brings serenity into our storms, because with God life never dies."