Pope Francis gave a historic blessing “Urbi et Orbi” -to the city and to the world- in solitude, from a Saint Peter’s Square in the Vatican totally empty as a result of the emergence of the coronavirus, which has caused more than 9,000 deaths in Italy .
In a deserted square, enveloped in silence and wet by the incessant rain, Jorge Bergoglio gave the world’s faithful Catholics an unprecedented ceremony, a homily, and a subsequent blessing that Catholic believers had to follow through the media.
The Holy See has ordered the closure and closure of Saint Peter’s Square and Basilica until April 3, as a precaution against the spread of this pandemic, which has already left at least five positive cases inside the Vatican.
The “Urbi et Orbi” blessing is usually given on three occasions: when the pope is elected successor to Peter, on December 25 for Christmas and at Easter.
But it is also offered on very specific occasions, such as in 1942, when Pius XII did so on the occasion of his Episcopal Jubilee and the XXV anniversary of the Fatima apparitions.
Pope Francis has wanted to have an extraordinary gesture now, when the world suffers the expansion of this virus that has already claimed the lives of more than 25,000 people globally.
“For some weeks now it seems that everything has darkened. Dense darkness has covered our squares, streets and cities; they took over our lives filling everything with a deafening silence and a desolate emptiness that paralyzes everything in its path: it palpitates in the air, it is felt in the gestures, the looks say it. We are scared and lost, “said the pope as he began his homily.
That of Friday has been a universal prayer appointment, proposed by Jorge Bergoglio himself last Sunday after the Angelus prayer and which has had another particular characteristic: all Catholics have had the opportunity to obtain a plenary indulgence, just as Francis recently established in the decree of the Apostolic Penitentiary.
In this document, the pope grants indulgences to all the patients with coronavirus, to their relatives, to those who care for them and to everyone who prays “to ask for the cessation of this pandemic, the relief of those who suffer and the eternal salvation of the deceased. “
The unprecedented ceremony in the Vatican began at 6:00 p.m. local time, when the pope walked silently from the steps of the Vatican square to the holy, where he offered a homily.
Afterwards, he slowly approached the central door of the Vatican Basilica to pray before the image of the Virgin Salus Populi Romani, which is usually kept in the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore, as well as the crucified Christ of the Church of San Marcello, to whom the pontiff prayed on March 16, leaving a memorable photograph, a walk through an empty Rome, with its people confined to their homes.
This Christ was carried in procession in 1522 by Rome to ask for the end of the plague that was ravaging the city and since then he has been carried in procession to Saint Peter every holy year, around every 50 years.
In the homily that he offered moments before in the plaza, Francisco dedicated a few words to “doctors, nurses, those in charge of replenishing products in supermarkets, cleaners, caregivers, transporters, security forces, volunteers, priests, religious” and to all those “who understood that no one can save themselves.”
Of them he said they are an example of courage and generosity because “in the face of fear, they have reacted by giving their own lives.”
They are “ordinary people -currently forgotten- who do not appear on the front pages of newspapers and magazines, or on the main catwalks of the last show, but, without a doubt, are writing today the decisive events in our history,” he said.
It also had a special memory for the “fathers, mothers, grandfathers and grandmothers, teachers” who teach children, “with small and daily gestures, how to face and go through a crisis by readapting routines, raising glances and promoting prayer.”
And he invited all humanity to reflect in the midst of this crisis on the importance of brotherhood and solidarity, in the face of individualism and selfishness.
He said that people have advanced for years feeling “strong and capable of everything, greedy for profits”, asleep “in the face of wars and injustices”, without listening to the poor and the sick, and thinking that they were “always healthy in a sick world “
On March 25, all the faithful of the world were summoned by the Pope to pray together a “Our Father”.