Pope Francis led Catholics around the world in reciting the Lord’s Prayer on Wednesday at noon Rome time, united with leaders and the faithful of other Churches and Christian communities throughout the world. Christian leaders and faithful joined Pope Francis and each other in order to pray for an end to the novel coronavirus pandemic, which has infected more than a half million people and claimed more than 19 thousand lives since late last year.
More than a third of the people confirmed to have died from COVID-19 — the disease caused by the novel coronavirus — have died in Italy: 6,820 people, according to the latest official count, which Italian authorities released Tuesday afternoon.
The disease has caused major disruption to life worldwide, with scores of countries implementing often severe restrictions on commerce and movement in efforts to slow the spread of the virus and allow healthcare systems to prepare to treat those who fall ill.
“Dear brothers and sisters,” Pope Francis prayed before the recitation at noon Rome time, “we set this appointment for ourselves today, Christians all throughout the world, to pray the Our Father together: the prayer that Jesus taught us.” Pope Francis went on to say, “We turn to the Father as confident children: we do it every day, several times a day; but right now we desire to beg mercy for humanity, severely tested by the coronavirus pandemic.”
“We do it together,” Pope Francis said, “Christians of every Church and Community, of every age, language and nation.”
“Let us pray,” Pope Francis said, “for the sick and their families, for healthcare workers and those who help them, for authorities — law enforcement and volunteers — [and] for the ministers of our communities.”
Noting that March 25th is the day on which many Christians mark the Feast of the Annunciation, when the archangel Gabriel told Our Lady that she would conceive and bear a son who would save the world from sin and death, Pope Francis said: “On this day, many of us celebrate the Incarnation of the Word in the womb of the Virgin Mary, when in her humble and perfect ‘Here I am’ was mirrored the ‘Here I am’ of the Son of God.”
“Let us entrust ourselves as well with full measure of confidence into God’s hands, Pope Francis concluded, “and with one heart and one soul let us pray: Pater noster qui es in caelis,…” offering the prayer in Latin, and slipping into Italian as he came to the final petition, liberaci dal male — “deliver us from evil.”
On Friday, March 27th, Pope Francis will offer an extraordinary benediction urbi et orbi — a solemn blessing to the city and the world — from the steps of an empty St Peter’s Square. Readings from Sacred Scripture, prayers of supplication, and Eucharistic adoration will precede Friday’s blessing. Vatican Media will broadcast the whole event live, starting at 6 pm Rome time (5pm London, 1pm EDT).
The plenary indulgence attached to the urbi et orbi blessing is available to all the faithful who follow the event live. The Apostolic Penitentiary also issued a decree recently, which details the conditions under which the faithful may obtain the indulgence:
Granted to the faithful suffering from Coronavirus, who are subject to quarantine by order of the health authority in hospitals or in their own homes if, with a spirit detached from any sin, they unite spiritually through the media to the celebration of Holy Mass, the recitation of the Holy Rosary, to the pious practice of the Way of the Cross or other forms of devotion, or if at least they will recite the Creed, the Lord’s Prayer and a pious invocation to the Blessed Virgin Mary, offering this trial in a spirit of faith in God and charity towards their brothers and sisters, with the will to fulfil the usual conditions (sacramental confession, Eucharistic communion and prayer according to the Holy Father’s intentions), as soon as possible.
Medical professionals, first responders, and other caregivers, whose occupations put them at elevated risk of exposure to the novel coronavirus, may likewise obtain the indulgence.
In addition, the indulgence is available during the emergency to the faithful who pray especially for relief from the pandemic and the repose of the souls of the victims of the disease. The decree specifically names several traditional acts of devotion: visiting the Blessed Sacrament; Eucharistic adoration; a half hour’s reading in Sacred Scripture; recitation of the Rosary; the Via Crucis; and, the Divine Mercy chaplet.
At his General Audience on Wednesday, Pope Francis once again called on all the faithful throughout the world to participate in Friday’s prayer and receive the extraordinary blessing: “I also renew my invitation to participate spiritually, through the media,” he said, “in the moment of prayer over which I will preside,” on Friday at 6pm Rome time.