Yesterday in excess of 11 million people tuned in as Pope Francis braved the elements of a very rainy St. Peter’s Square to offer a moment of prayer for a world gripped by the coronavirus pandemic. The Pontifical Blessing “Urbi et orbing” (to the City and to the world) is usually a twice yearly event at the tower major festivals of the Christian Calendar – Christmas and Easter.
Yesterday was no great Christian Festival, as Christians throughout the world continue the observance of the penitential season of Lent; yesterday was very cold and wet Friday in Rome. People watching could not be moved by the sight of a struggling Pope climbing the Vatican ‘hill’ through a very empty and isolated St. Peter’s Square. He called for this special time of prayer for the ending of the coronavirus pandemic and offered a very moving and comforting message to the world. Reflecting on the Gospel narrative of the disciples battling the storm in the boat whilst Christ lay asleep, Pope Francis pondered the Covid-19 crisis. “Thick darkness has gathered over our squares, our streets and our cities; it has taken over our lives, filling everything with a deafening silence and a distressing void, that stops everything as it passes by; we feel it in the air, we notice it in people’s gestures, their glances give them away.” He reflected how we feel lost and alone much like the disciples in the boat as the Christ appears to sleep. But when he awakes he says to his disciples “Have you no faith. Do not be afraid” before calming the storm.
The Holy Father’s message to the world was clear … we are all in the same boat. [Covid-19 has exposed] “our vulnerability and uncovers those false and superfluous certainties around which we have constructed our daily schedules”. Now we face our common humanity as brothers and sisters. The Holy Father went on to say that we can only come through this crisis with each other and with faith in Christ Jesus. He said God’s strength lay in ” … turning to the good everything that happens to us, even the bad things. He brings serenity into our storms, because with God life never dies.” We are invited to “reawaken and put into practice that solidarity and hope capable of giving strength, support and meaning to these hours when everything seems to be floundering.”
The Holy Father concluded his meditation entrusting us all to the Lord, through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, so that our faith might not waiver in this time of crisis.
Following the meditation Pope Francis venerated the miraculous crucifix kept in the church of San Marcello. This crucifix survived a devastating fire unscathed in 1519, and was processed through the entire region of Rome during a devastating plague in 1522, where upon its return to the church, the plague is recorded to have ended. Praying for the world before this image, we place our faith and hop that the lord will bring the coronavirus pandemic to end. Following a short and moving period of Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, the Holy Father blessed the city and the world with the Sacred Host.
The whole event was very moving and encouraged the audience to reflect on our relationship as a human species. The full text of the Holy Father’s message can be viewed below.