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VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis in a special prayer service Saturday in St. Peter’s Basilica invoked the end of the pandemic and a return of what he called “a horizon of hope,” including a scenario in which scientists can figure out how to conquer the coronavirus.

Francis led an evening rosary service attended by about 200 rank-and-file faithful, including many children, who sat spaced apart according to COVID-19 protocols.

Speaking softly, Frances lamented how the pandemic has left so many people “anguished, bewildered and weeping for their dear ones who have died, buried sometimes in a way that wounds the soul.”

Invoking the intercession of the Virgin Mary with God, Francis prayed that “this hard trial end and that a horizon of hope and peace return.”

Francis also prayed for health care workers on the front lines and as well as for “the men and women of science, so that they find right solutions to conquer this virus.”

Also remembered in his remarks were “all the women who have suffered violence within the walls of their homes” due to mandated lockdowns.

The pope implored in prayer that national leaders use wisdom and generosity in planning social and economic solutions “with foresight and the spirit of solidarity.” He urged defense funds be used instead for research “to prevent similar catastrophes in the future.”

Every day for the rest of May, Catholic sanctuaries in the world dedicated to Mary will take turns holding a similar rosary service. Francis wanted the initiative, which ends May 31, when he will lead the rosary’s recitation in the Vatican Gardens.

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