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Cardinal Peter Turkson, prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, is pictured in a 2018 file photo. While the coronavirus pandemic gripping the world highlights the frailty of human life, it is also an opportunity for people to unite in solidarity, Cardinal Turkson said in a statement.(CNS photo/Paul Haring)

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- While the coronavirus pandemic gripping the world highlights the frailty of human life, it is also an opportunity for people to unite in solidarity, a Vatican official said.

"For each person, believer or nonbeliever, this is a good time to understand the value of brotherhood, of being linked to one another in an indissoluble way," Cardinal Peter Turkson, prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, said in a statement March 11.

It is "a time in which, in the horizon of faith, the value of solidarity which springs from the love that is sacrificed for others, helps us to see the 'other' -- person, people, or nation -- not as just as an instrument, but as our 'counterpart,' a 'helper,' made to share with us in the banquet of life to which all people are equally invited by God," he wrote.

The Italian government has taken drastic measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, which has infected thousands in the country, especially in the northern regions of Lombardy and Emilia Romagna.

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte announced March 11 that all businesses, restaurants and bars would be closed except for supermarkets, pharmacies and essential services.

Cardinal Turkson said that in Italy and around the world, many are experiencing "days of great concern and growing anxiety" at a time when "human fragility and vulnerability" are particularly clear because of the pandemic.

Like any other emergency situation, he added, the challenges facing countries trying to contain the virus also "highlight more clearly the serious inequalities that characterize our socioeconomic systems."

"Faced with this range of inequalities, the human family is challenged to feel and live truly as an interconnected and interdependent family," the Ghanaian cardinal said. "The prevalence of the coronavirus has demonstrated this global significance, having initially affected only one country and then spread to every part of the globe."

Addressing the lack of liturgical celebrations, especially during the Lenten season, Cardinal Turkson said Catholics are called in this time "to an even more deeply rooted journey on what sustains spiritual life: prayer, fasting and charity."

"If we cannot gather in our assemblies to live our faith together as we usually do, God offers us the opportunity to enrich ourselves, to discover new paradigms and to rediscover our personal relationship with him," the cardinal said.

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