“To the world’s billion-plus Catholics, the Pope is one of the most trusted messengers and holds unparalleled influence,” Sherman said. “We are extremely grateful to him and the Cardinals and Archbishops for lending their voices and platforms to help people across the globe feel more confident in the vaccines.” The ad includes Pope Francis, Gomez, Mexican Cardinal Carlos Aguiar Retes, Honduran Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga, Brazilian Cardinal Claudio Hummes, Salvadorian Cardinal Gregorio Rosa Chavez, and Peruvian Archbishop Miguel Cabrejos, describing vaccination against COVID as a moral responsibility.

Pope Francis is now appearing in a new commercial aimed at Spanish-speaking countries, urging Roman Catholics everywhere to submit to the ‘respective authorities’ in an act of ‘universal love’ and agree to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. For you students of Bible prophecy, does this tantalizing little prophetic appetizer remind you of anything? You get 3 guesses, and the first two don’t count. 3 guesses, 3 sixes, take your pick you’ll wind up at the same place.

Pope Francis in chair with microphone
Pope Francis giving his weekly general audience at the Vatican on Wednesday. Photograph: Alessia Giuliani/CPP/IPA/Rex

“And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads: And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name. Here is wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast: for it is the number of a man; and his number is Six hundred threescore and six.” Revelation 13:16-18 (KJB)

Pope Francis has urged people to get vaccinated against Covid-19, describing doing so as “an act of love”.

The pontiff made his appeal in a video produced by the Vatican and the Ad Council, a non-profit US group that has previously made videos promoting vaccination against Covid. He praised the work of scientists for producing safe and effective vaccines.

“Thanks to God and to the work of many, we now have vaccines to protect us from Covid-19,” he said in the video. “Vaccines bring hope to end the pandemic, but only if they are available to all and if we collaborate with one another.”

Francis said being inoculated with vaccines authorised by competent authorities was “an act of love”. “Vaccination is a simple but profound way of promoting the common good and caring for each other, especially the most vulnerable,” he said.

The pope has previously spoken about the importance of the Covid-19 jab, while emphasising that vaccinations must be distributed equally, especially to poor countries. The video is aimed at a global audience, and features bishops from the US and Central and South America.

Francis has faced scepticism about vaccines from traditionalist cardinals, including from his staunch critic, the American cardinal Raymond Leo Burke. Burke, who has also expressed scepticism over social distancing measures, last week announced on Twitter that he had “recently” tested positive for Covid.

A subsequent tweet from his account on Saturday said he had been admitted to hospital and was on a ventilator. It is unclear whether Burke, who lives in Rome but travels frequently, had been vaccinated and it is thought he may have contracted the virus during a recent trip to Wisconsin.

Burke has previously criticised the way governments have handled the pandemic and vaccines. Last December he referred to Covid-19 as the “Wuhan virus”, echoing the former US president Donald Trump. And last May, he spoke out forcefully against Covid vaccines, saying: “It must be clear that vaccination itself cannot be imposed, in a totalitarian manner, on citizens.”

Burke also said coronavirus “has been used by certain forces, inimical to families and to the freedom of nations, to advance their evil agenda”, and that the most effective weapon against Covid was “our relationship with Christ through prayer and penance, and devotions and sacred worship”.