Pope Francis gave an extraordinary blessing “to the city and the world” (Urbi et Orbi) from the portico of St. Peter’s Basilica on March 27 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Though the event took place before an empty, rainy St. Peter’s Square, it reached millions worldwide.
After giving a reflection (see next page), the Holy Father venerated the ancient icon Maria Salus Populi Romani (Mary, Protectress and Health of the Roman People) and a miraculous crucifix that was carried through Rome in 1522 to end a plague. The pope then spent some time in eucharistic adoration before raising the monstrance in solemn blessing over the entire world.
The hourlong event was broadcast with financial support from the Knights of Columbus, as were broadcasts of the Good Friday Stations of the Cross led by Pope Francis on April 10 and the pope’s Easter Sunday Mass and Urbi et Orbi blessing on April 12.
“For weeks now it has been evening. Thick darkness has gathered over our squares, our streets and our cities; it has taken over our lives. … We find ourselves afraid and lost. Like the disciples in the Gospel we were caught off guard by an unexpected, turbulent storm.
“‘Why are you afraid? Have you no faith?’ Lord, you are calling to us, calling us to faith. … This Lent your call reverberates urgently: ‘Be converted!’, ‘Return to me with all your heart’ (Joel 2:12). You are calling on us to seize this time of trial as a time of choosing. … It is a time to get our lives back on track with regard to you, Lord, and to others.
“We can look to so many exemplary companions for the journey, who, even though fearful, have reacted by giving their lives … ordinary people — often forgotten people — who do not appear in newspaper and magazine headlines … but who without any doubt are in these very days writing the decisive events of our time: doctors, nurses, supermarket employees, cleaners, caregivers, providers of transport, law and order forces, volunteers, priests, religious men and women and so very many others who have understood that no one reaches salvation by themselves. …
“How many people every day are exercising patience and offering hope, taking care to sow not panic but a shared responsibility. How many fathers, mothers, grandparents and teachers are showing our children, in small everyday gestures, how to face up to and navigate a crisis by adjusting their routines, lifting their gaze and fostering prayer. How many are praying, offering and interceding for the good of all. Prayer and quiet service: these are our victorious weapons. …
“The Lord awakens so as to reawaken and revive our Easter faith. We have an anchor: By his cross we have been saved. We have a rudder: By his cross we have been redeemed. We have a hope: By his cross we have been healed and embraced so that nothing and no one can separate us from his redeeming love. …
“Dear brothers and sisters, from this place that tells of Peter’s rock-solid faith, I would like this evening to entrust all of you to the Lord, through the intercession of Mary, Health of the People and Star of the stormy Sea. From this colonnade that embraces Rome and the whole world, may God’s blessing come down upon you as a consoling embrace. Lord, may you bless the world, give health to our bodies and comfort our hearts.”
— excerpted from Pope Francis’ March 27 reflection
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