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Pope leaves Vatican City to pray in one of Rome's basilica: Vatican

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Vatican City (AFP)

Pope Francis left Vatican City on Sunday to pray in one of Rome's cathedrals for victims of the coronavirus pandemic, the Vatican said.

The 83-year-old pontiff first visited Rome's Santa Maria Maggiore basilica and then walked "on foot, as if on a pilgrimage" to the San Marcello al Corso church, the Vatican said in a statement.

The statement said Pope Francis selected the church because it holds a "miraculous crucifix which, in 1522, was carried in procession through the districts of the city" to mark the end of the Great Plague.

The pope prayed for "the end of the pandemic that affects Italy and the world, imploring for the healing of the many sick, and remembering the many victims," the Vatican said.

Italy on Sunday recorded 368 new deaths from the virus, its highest one-day increase to date, taking the total to 1,809 -- the most outside China.

The statement said Pope Francis returned to the Vatican about 90 minutes after leaving.

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