Urbi-et-Orbi: Francis faces coronavirus ‘tempest’ alone in St Peter’s Square

On a bleak Friday evening, from the atrium of St. Peter’s Basilica, Pope Francis blessed the city of Rome and of the world.

The ‘Urbi et Orbi’ blessing, ‘to the city and the world’, was delivered in an empty St Peter’s Square.

In stark contrast, the blessing is normally given at Easter and Christmas when St Peter’s is packed with pilgrims.

Leading the prayer service Francis implored God to rid the world of the coronavirus pandemic that has wreaked such havoc.

In his homily, Francis referenced Christ’s words in the Gospel of Mark 4:35-41 where Jesus disciples, fearing they would drown in a boat during a storm, beg Jesus “to save them.”

Echoing Jesus’s response to the disciples, Francis said: “Do not be afraid”.

“The Lord will not leave us at the mercy of the storm.”

This moment is “a time to choose what matters in life and what passes away, a time to separate what is necessary from what is not.”

“It is a time to get our lives back on track with regard to you, Lord, and to others,” he said.

“Like the disciples, we will experience that with him on board there will be no shipwreck. Because this is God’s strength: 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.”

Reinforcing the seriousness of the occasion Francis was supported two greatly venerated images placed in front of the gates of St. Peter’s during the service.

One was an icon of Our Lady with the child Jesus in her arms, which is believed to have helped rid the city of the plague in the 6th century and cholera in the 19th.

The other image was the miraculous cross from the church of St. Marcello, which is said to have helped counter the plague in 1522.

It has been processed through the city every Holy year (which occur every 50 years) since then.

The names of all the popes (most recently Pope St John Paul II during the Jubilee Year 2000) have witnessed these processions are engraved on its back.



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