Pope Francis prayed for India as the country’s total COVID-19 cases rose by over 400,000 for the fourth consecutive day on Sunday.
India’s health ministry reported 4,092 fatalities over the past 24 hours, taking the overall death toll to 242,362.
Cases rose by 403,738, increasing the total since the start of the pandemic to 22.3 million.
In a statement from the Vatican, the pope said he prays for the people of India as they face the devastating impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
“My thoughts go above all to the sick and their families, to those who care for them, and in particular to those who are mourning the loss of their loved ones,” said the pope in a message to Cardinal Oswald Gracias of Bombay, president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India.
The pontiff conveyed his “heartfelt solidarity and spiritual closeness to all the Indian people, together with the assurance of my prayers that God will grant healing and consolation to everyone affected by this grave pandemic.”
“I think too of the many doctors, nurses, hospital workers, ambulance drivers, and those working tirelessly to respond to the immediate needs of their brothers and sisters,” he said.
“With deep appreciation, I invoke upon all of them God’s gifts of perseverance, strength, and peace,” added the pope.
Media reports have earlier said at least 14 Catholic priests died of COVID-19 in the country between April 20 and April 23, and five priests died in 24 hours in the western state of Gujarat on April 17.
“In a particular way, I am united to the Catholic community in your country, with gratitude for its works of charity and fraternal solidarity carried out in the service of all; I think especially of the generosity shown by so many committed young people,” said the pope in his message.
“I join you in commending to the Lord’s infinite mercy the faithful who have lost their lives, not least the great numbers of priests and men and women religious,” he added.
“In these days of immense grief, may we all be consoled in the hope born of Easter and our unshakeable faith in Christ’s promise of resurrection and new life,” said the pontiff.