Catholics from 30 shrines around the world dedicated to the Virgin, such as Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City and Our Lady of Fatima in Portugal, will take turns leading prayers each day during the month.

Pope Francis launched a month-long worldwide Catholic prayer marathon on Saturday to ask God to end the COVID-19 pandemic, and said money spent on weapons should be used instead to prevent future epidemics.

Francis presided over the rosary recital in St. Peter’s Basilica on the first day of May, a month that Roman Catholics traditionally dedicate to daily prayer to the Virgin.

Each day of the month, Roman Catholics were invited to pray for a specific category of people affected by the pandemic, such as those who were unable to say goodbye to their dying loved ones, health workers, the poor, homeless and people thrown into economic difficulty.

The Pope prayed that “this difficult trial may come to an end and that the horizons of hope and peace return”.

He asked Our Lady to “touch the conscience so that enormous sums spent to increase and perfect armaments are rather intended to promote adequate studies to avoid similar catastrophes in the future”.

Catholics from 30 shrines around the world dedicated to the Virgin, such as Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City and Our Lady of Fatima in Portugal, will take turns leading prayers each day during the month.

The Rosary Recitals, which will be televised and webcast daily at 6 p.m. Rome (4 p.m. GMT), will be closed by the Pope at the end of the month during a service in the Vatican Gardens.

At the Saturday service, Francis blessed 30 sets of rosaries which will be sent to the 30 participating shrines.

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