June 20 (UPI) -- Pope Francis praised health care workers and warned against returning to the "illusion of individualism."
During a Saturday address to an audience of religious and civil authorities along with a delegation of doctors and nurses from the Lombardy region in northern Italy, the Pope described medical workers as "angels."
"More than ever we feel gratitude for the doctors, nurses and all health care workers, on the front line as they carried out an arduous and sometimes heroic service," the pope said. "Many of them fell ill and some unfortunately died in the exercise of their profession. We remember them in prayer with much gratitude."
He also said that, amid the pandemic, "the pretension to focus everything on ourselves, to make individualism the guiding principle of society, has proved illusory."
"Let us be careful," he said, "because, as soon as the emergency has passed, it is easy to fall back into this illusion. It is easy to quickly forget that we need others, someone to take care of us, to give us courage."
It was the pope's first public address to an in-person audience since the COVID-19 pandemic forced much of Europe, including the Vatican, into lockdown.