Francis prays in St.Peter's square on day of 969 deaths

Pope Francis prays against the darkening sky

VATICAN CITY — On the day that Pope Francis prayed in an empty St. Peter's Square, as many as 969 Italians died from coronavirus in Italy over the past 24 hours, officials from the Civil Protection Agency revealed. Although they insisted the rate of new infections was still falling, the death toll was the worst so far for one day in the epidemic for the Italian peninsula, while total infections exceeded 80,000 so far in Italy, outstripping the official total in China.

  It was a very bad day for Lombardy, with 34,889 people positive for coronavirus, an increase of 2,543 cases in 24 hours. The deaths in the region account for 4,861 of the total 9,134 across Italy. The total number of positive cases in Lazio is 2,013 with 118 dead.

  Francis, from a few steps from the central gate of the basilica, stood in isolation and said that a "dense darkness has thickened on our squares, streets and cities; it has seized our lives filling everything with deafening silence and a desolate void"

  In a televised address on Friday, the Italian President Mattarella also made an address, saying that "we are living a sad page in our history. We have seen images that will be impossible to forget. Some territories, and the older generation, are paying a very high price."