RNA - Delivering his Easter address from Saint Paul's Cathedral in Vatican City on Sunday, the pontiff urged world powers to ease crippling economic sanctions imposed against a number of countries, saying that safeguarding the human health depended on it.
"In light of the present circumstances, many international sanctions be relaxed, since these makes it difficult for countries on which they have been imposed to provide adequate support to their citizens," Francis said.
The new coronavirus first emerged in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in Hubei Province late last year.
The virus has so far infected 1,795,747 people worldwide, and over 110,005 have died, according to a running count by worldometers.info.
Pope’s Sunday remarks come as in recent months calls have been growing inside the US and abroad for Washington to lift its unilateral sanctions on countries that are not in line with its policies, especially Iran, with bans being described as a wrench thrown into global efforts to rein in COVID-19.
The UN, the European Union and human rights organizations besides several American lawmakers and political figures have been pressing the US administration to ease the bans on Iran, Venezuela, Syria, Cuba, North Korea, among others on the sanctions list.
The United States reinstated its sanctions against Iran in May 2018 after leaving a UN-endorsed nuclear agreement with the Islamic Republic and five other countries.
Over the past few weeks, Washington has issued new rounds of sanctions targeting companies doing business with Tehran as well as international banks, which have made it impossible for the country to procure medicine and medical equipment it needs to tackle the pandemic.
Iran has been among the countries hardest hit by the novel coronavirus, recording 71,686 infections and 4,473 deaths so far.
Meanwhile, US President Donald Trump has escalated the anti-Cuba sanctions ever since taking office in 2017, making it even more difficult for other countries to ship supplies there.
Cuba has blasted the United States for its "cruel" blockade against the small island nation, joining other countries to slam US sanctions amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Other nations currently being harmed by US sanction despite the highly contagious virus pandemic have also condemned Washington’s inhumane measures.
Elsewhere in his remarks, the pope urged the world's leaders to put aside their political fights and call back their armies during a global health emergency of a magnitude not seen in 100 years.
"This is not a time for division," Francis said.
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has already called for a global ceasefire, urging all parties in conflict to lay down arms and allow war-torn nations to combat the coronavirus pandemic.
Parties to conflict in a number of countries, including Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Colombia, Libya, Myanmar, the Philippines, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria, Ukraine, and Yemen, have expressed support for his call.
The Houthi Ansarullah movement, which has been defending Yemen against a bloody campaign led by the Saudi regime, recently welcomed Guterres' call for a ceasefire in all conflicts worldwide.
Francis further called for a "reduction, if not the forgiveness, of the debt burdening the balance sheets of the poorest nations" and for European nations to show the same "solidarity" they did in the wake of World War II.
"The European Union is presently facing an epochal challenge, on which will depend not only its future but that of the whole world," he said.
The coronavirus has wreaked havoc on the global economy as many countries have adopted severe measures to contain the outbreak, including imposing lockdowns and closing businesses and borders, as well as limiting public gatherings.
The world economy is expected to see a sharp downturn, and several countries could plunge into recession this year.