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|Pope Francis delivers the "Urbi et Orbi" Christmas day blessing at St. Peter's Basilica. Photo: Catholic News Service|
On a Christmas like no other, Pope Francis prayed for people who could not be with their families because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and called for “vaccines for all,” especially the world’s most vulnerable people.
“My thoughts at this moment turn to families: to those who cannot come together today and to those forced to remain at home,” the Pope said on December 25 during his traditional Urbi et Orbi (to the city and the world) message at the Vatican. “May Christmas be an opportunity for all of us to rediscover the family as a cradle of life and faith, a place of acceptance and love, dialogue, forgiveness, fraternal solidarity and shared joy, a source of peace for all humanity.”
"Today, in this time of darkness and uncertainty during the pandemic, different lights of hope appear, like the discovery of the vaccines ... they must be available to everyone,".
"I beg all those in charge of states, of companies, of international bodies ... to promote cooperation and not competition and to seek a solution for everyone, vaccines for all, especially for the most vulnerable and needy in all regions of the globe."
Pope Francis called for generosity and support, particularly towards those who are vulnerable, the sick, those unemployed or experiencing hardship due to the economic effects of the pandemic, and women who have suffered domestic violence during these months of lockdown.
|Pope Francis' Urbi et Orbi (to the city and the world) message. Photo: CNS photo/Vatican Media|
He spoke from the Vatican Apostolic Palace -- as opposed to his balcony overlooking St. Peter's Square, where he traditionally issues the address from.
The leader of the Catholic Church also used the Christmas Day message to call for an end to conflicts throughout the Middle East and Africa, as well as an easing of suffering across the American continent.
The Pope also held a sparsely attended Christmas Eve mass on December 24 in the rear section of St. Peter's Basilica.
Due to Covid-19 restrictions only 200 people were present, including 30 cardinals.
The Christmas Eve mass is a landmark event in Vatican City. It is usually held in the main section of the basilica, according to Reuters, and usually attracts up to 10,000 people.
|Pope Francis wears a mask during his Christmas message and blessing "urbi et orbi" (to the city and the world) delivered from the Hall of Blessings at the Vatican Dec. 25, 2020. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)|
This year the Pope stressed the importance of helping the needy, pointing out in his homily that Jesus was born an outcast.
"The Son of God was born an outcast, in order to tell us that every outcast is a child of God," he said.
December 25's blessing concludes a muted year for the Pope, whose activities have been heavily curtailed by the pandemic.
He held his regular Wednesday audience online from March to September and in the spring celebrated Palm Sunday mass in an empty church, CNN said.
Italy was one of the worst hit countries during the first wave of COVID-19 in Europe. The country's government has enforced its strictest level of COVID-19 measures nationwide over the Christmas and new year period to avert a third wave./.
Seventeen more volunteers were injected with Nanocovax, the first COVID-19 vaccine developed by Vietnam, by the Military Medical University in the morning of December 22.
The people, who are among 60 volunteers selected for the first phase human trial, each received a dose of 25mcg. They have been under medical monitoring at the university for 72 hours.
The first three volunteers were vaccinated on December 17. They are now in stable conditions and under health monitoring in their localities. The three will get the second jabs 28 days after the first injection.
The university is scheduled to increase the dose to 50mcg for three other volunteers.
Some 300-400 volunteers have so far registered for the clinical trials of COVID-19 vaccine.
Developed by the Nanogen Pharmaceutical Biotechnology JSC and the Vietnam Military Medical University, Nanocovax is Vietnam's first COVID-19 candidate vaccine to reach the human trial stage.
Apart from Nanocovax, Vietnam has several other COVID-19 candidate vaccines being developed by Vabiotech, Polyvac, and the Institute of Vaccines and Medical Biologicals, VNA said.
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