By Linda Bordoni
“I wish to be close to and pray for the people who are sick because of the virus that has spread through China,” Pope Francis said after praying the Sunday Angelus in St. Peter’s Square.
"May the Lord welcome the dead into his peace, comfort families and sustain the great commitment by the Chinese community that has already been put in place to combat the epidemic," he said.
China’s National Health Commission on Sunday said the ability of the new coronavirus to spread is strengthening and infections could continue to rise.
Nearly 2,000 people have been infected in China and 56 killed by the disease.
A handful of cases have been reported outside China, including in Thailand, Australia, the United States and France, with health authorities around the world racing to prevent a pandemic.
The newly-identified coronavirus has created alarm because there are still many unknowns surrounding it, such as how dangerous it is and how easily it spreads between people. It can cause pneumonia, which has been deadly in some cases.