Pope Francis is to deliver a solemn blessing normally reserved for Easter and Christmas later on Friday.
“We want to respond to the virus pandemic with the universality of prayer,” a message posted on the Pope’s official Twitter account said.
The hour-long service of prayer begins at 17:00 GMT and will take place on the steps of St Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican, culminating in the Urbi et Orbi – meaning ‘to the city and the world’ – blessing.
While the blessing is usually delivered to a packed square, believers are instead being invited to “participate spiritually” with the event, which will be streamed live on the Vatican News website, as well as official Facebook and YouTube accounts.
Italy has reported the greatest number of deaths from the coronavirus of any country in the world, with 8,215 confirmed so far.