By ZENIT Staff

Pope Francis expressed his closeness and support to France, where Covid-19 has claimed more than 20,000 lives, during a telephone conversation with French President Emmanuel Macron, according to Vatican News.

The President’s office said the Pope and President Macron spoke for about 45 minutes on Tuesday afternoon by telephone. It also said the Pope positively acknowledged “the constructive responses taken by France at the international level after the health crisis caused by the pandemic.”

The Holy See Press Office has not released a statement about the event, as is normal practice regarding private conversations with the Pope, but Macron’s communications office said the two leaders also agreed on the need for a global ceasefire in all conflicts, Vatican News reported.

This reflects the appeal made by Pope Francis during his Easter Sunday Urbi et Orbi message in which he said: “May Christ our peace enlighten all who have a responsibility in conflicts, that they may have the courage to support the appeal for an immediate global ceasefire in all corners of the world.”

In that message, Pope Francis also reminded the world that this is not the time for indifference, self-centeredness or division and said: “May all nations be put in a position to meet the greatest needs of the moment through the reduction, if not the forgiveness, of the debt burdening the balance sheets of the poorest nations.”

This appeal was immediately echoed by President Macron who announced the possibility of cancelling the debt of African countries to assist them in their fight against the Covid-19 virus and its far-reaching consequences. And, in line with the Pope, Macron has also called for unity in the fight against the virus.

With more than 20,000 deaths, France has been the third country most affected by the coronavirus in Europe, after Italy and Spain.

The President’s Office said the two leaders stressed their convergence of views on these issues and revealed that Macron wanted to explain how France was committed to going forward. At the beginning of the telephone conversation, Emmanuel Macron reportedly also renewed his invitation to the Pope to visit France.

The exchange of views between the Pope and the French President comes on the eve of a meeting of the heads of the 27 member states of the European Union, scheduled to be held by video conference on April 23.

That meeting is expected to result in crucial decisions regarding the financial instruments the union will adopt to assist states’ response to the Covid-19 pandemic, especially those nations worst hit by the virus – Italy, Spain and France.

Following Emanuel Macron’s telephone conversation with Pope Francis, the President also reportedly engaged in dialogue with religious leaders and secular associations in France.

According to a statement released by the Élysée, it was an opportunity to maintain dialogue between public authorities and faith-based organizations within the context of confinement measures taken due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Bishop de Moulins-Beaufort represented the Catholic Church.

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