Archbishop Eamon Martin has welcomed plans for an extraordinary live broadcast from Pope Francis today, as the coronavirus forces millions around the world to stay indoors.
At 5pm UK time, Pope Francis will appear from the balcony of his private library in front of an empty St Peter's Square and broadcast a blessing around the world.
The Urbi et Orbi, meaning 'to the city and the world', is normally reserved for Christmas and Easter. It offers plenary indulgence and the forgiveness of sins to those present and watching through media outlets.
Most masses and sacraments have been banned in Italy as over 7,500 have died from the virus and more than 74,000 are infected.
All Ireland Primate, Archbishop Martin, thanked Pope Francis for offering "compassion, hope and solidarity" during such a difficult time.
Ten people have died from Covid-19 in Northern Ireland to date, according to latest figures.
Archbishop Martin added: "This blessing will be a very significant celebration of the mercy of God towards humanity, especially in these current and trying circumstances.
"Pope Francis is encouraging us all to pray incessantly, and the plenary indulgence will be available to those sick with the coronavirus, their families, healthcare workers and for all working at the front line exposing themselves to the risk of contagion by following the example of the Good Samaritan."
In Ireland, the blessing is to be broadcast on RTE.
Archbishop Martin added: "The wide dissemination of his important message and blessing will be welcomed by the many, many people throughout Ireland as an opportunity to avail ourselves of Divine Grace. I encourage everyone to watch this special broadcast."
On Wednesday, Pope Francis reaffirmed the need to protect all life, rallying Christians around the world to pray together for those sick with the coronavirus and the medical personnel caring for them. Francis presided over a global prayer in which he begged for God's mercy amid the pandemic. The prayer fell on the 25th anniversary of a landmark Vatican document reaffirming the inviolability of all human life from conception to natural death. Francis dedicated his comments to the document, which strongly reaffirmed church teaching opposing abortion and euthanasia. Francis said it is imperative to "relaunch this teaching in the context of a pandemic that threatens human life and the global economy".