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Ecuador bishop blesses virus-stricken city from helicopter

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Guayaquil (Ecuador) (AFP)

Bishop Giovanni Battista took to the skies in a helicopter on Thursday to bless Guayaquil, the city in Ecuador worst affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

Wearing a face mask and gloves and accompanied by a priest, Battista crossed himself with a monstrance and prayed for the inhabitants of the coastal city as he flew overhead.

Guayaquil is the largest city in Ecuador and the capital of the Guayas province that has recorded 68 percent of Ecuador's almost 5,000 virus cases and more than half of the 272 deaths.

The move came during the catholic Holy Week in which all processions have been banned due to the virus outbreak.

Four-fifths of Ecuador's 17.5 million population is Roman Catholic.

The benediction was transmitted live by the Guayaquil archdiocese on Facebook Live.

"We ask for all the sick, for all those families full of faith and hope in the Lord to trust in his infinite goodness and mercy," Battista said during the transmission.

Andres Carrascosa, the papal nuncio for Ecuador, has also blessed numerous cities, including the capital Quito, from a helicopter.

Another helicopter flight over Guayaquil is programmed for Easter Sunday. The Catholic church has asked the faithful to stick pictures of Jesus and Mary in their windows to mark the occasion.

The Easter Friday procession in Guayaquil usually attracts half a million people.

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