.- In a phone call Wednesday, Pope Francis told an archbishop in Brazil that he is praying for the country, which has become the epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic in Latin America.
According to Archbishop Orlando Brandes of Aparecida, Pope Francis called him June 10 and said “I am always near to you, as my heart reaches out to all Brazilians,” Vatican News reported.
After the United States, Brazil has the second-highest number of reported coronavirus cases at more than 772,000. Brazil is also ranked third in the world for deaths from COVID-19, with a 39,680 recorded as of Thursday.
In his phone call to the archbishop, Pope Francis said he was praying for the whole nation, not just Christians, Brandes said.
According to Brandes, the pope also encouraged Brazilians to find rest during this difficult time in the arms of Our Lady of Aparecida, the patroness of Brazil.
In 2013, Pope Francis traveled to Rio de Janeiro, where he said Mass at the Basilica of the Shrine of Our Lady of Aparecida. Archbishop Brandes said during their telephone call that Francis recalled taking the image of Our Lady of Aparecida, “the Madonnina, which means ‘little mother,’” into his lap.
The call concluded with the pope giving his blessing and inviting the people of Brazil to “have courage and hope.”
“We are people of faith,” he added.
Pope Francis also made an appeal for Brazil during his Angelus address last Sunday, noting the “terrible” death rate that the Latin American country is experiencing due to the pandemic.
On June 5, an editorial on the front page of the Folha de S.Paulo newspaper said COVID-19 was “killing a Brazilian per minute,” after the country recorded 1,473 deaths in 24 hours.
Francis has also made two other calls to Brazilian bishops since the start of the pandemic, according to Vatican News. He called Archbishop Leonard Steiner of Manaus on April 25 and Cardinal Odilo Scherer, the archbishop of São Paulo, on May 9.
Brazil is not the only Latin American country struggling to control the coronavirus. Every country in the region has cases, with Mexico following Brazil for the most deaths recorded.
Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia, Chile, and the Dominican Republic have also recorded a high number of confirmed cases in respect to population.