“With his prayer, the Holy Father pleaded for an end to the pandemic that has struck Italy and the world. He also implored the healing of the many sick people, remembered the numerous victims of these past days, and asked that their families and friends might find consolation and comfort. His prayer intention was also extended to healthcare workers, doctors, nurses, and all those working in these days to guarantee the smooth functioning of society.”
– Matteo Bruni, Director of the Holy See Press Office
This astonishing photograph shows our Holy Father, Pope Francis, raising the Eucharist in the Monstrance and blessing an empty Saint Peter’s Square and, beyond it, the entire world.
Earlier, the Holy Father had delivered an address on livestream, before coming to the window of the Apostolic Palace. An accompanying photograph showed the grim expression on the face of the Holy Father.
Each of us carries our own concerns within our hearts. As for the Holy Father, he carries the concerns of the entire Church and of all the world. There can be no doubt that for the Vicar of Christ in the world, leading that world and this Church is an enormous burden and one which weighs very heavily on his heart in these days – how can he help the Church to be a beacon of light in the present gloom? How can he best support all those who make up the faithful of the Church, so many of whom are grieviously weighed down at this moment?
It was no doubt with these thoughts in his mind that later in the day, the Holy Father made a special visit to the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore, where he prayed for a long time before the miraculous icon of Our Blessed Lady, called ‘Salus Populi Romani ‘ – ‘Salvation of the Roman People’. The Pope then walked through the deserted streets to the Church of San Marcello alla Corso, where there is a miraculous Crucifix. And again he prayed for the Church and for the world. Matteo Bruni, Director of the Holy See Press Office, said –
“This afternoon, just after 4 PM, Pope Francis left the Vatican and made a private visit to the Basilica of St. Mary Major, to offer a prayer to the Virgin Mary, Salus Populi Romani, where her icon is kept and venerated. Then, after taking a walk along the Via del Corso – as if making a pilgrimage – he visited the church of San Marcello on the Corso, where a miraculous crucifix is housed. In 1522 it was carried in procession throughout the neighborhoods of the city so that the “Great Plague” might cease in Rome. With his prayer, the Holy Father pleaded for an end to the pandemic that has struck Italy and the world. He also implored the healing of the many sick people, remembered the numerous victims of these past days, and asked that their families and friends might find consolation and comfort. His prayer intention was also extended to healthcare workers, doctors, nurses, and all those working in these days to guarantee the smooth functioning of society. The Holy Father returned to the Vatican around 5:30 PM.”
Locally, Archbishop Tartaglia of the Archdiocese of Glasgow, Scotland, has written to the faithful today in order to try to offer some words of consolation and of comfort. His letter follows –
“We are in the midst of a very serious outbreak of the Coronavirus, or Covid-19, here in Scotland and in the UK, as in much of Europe. This is having quite an impact on our lives and we can expect it to have more of an impact as the days go by. We have been bombarded with public health notifications and we all know what precautions to take. The Government will also impose restrictions as and when they feel it is necessary, and these may become quite limiting. For our part, we have also made changes to how we behave in our acts of worship in order to inhibit the spread of the virus, and we will continue to take whatever steps are necessary.
This virus is unprecedented in our lifetimes. We cannot see it coming. There is no vaccine for it as yet. We are told that many people may become infected and that some will die, as they have already, especially those of a certain age and with underlying health issues. We are facing something that is beyond our control. Despite the valiant efforts of doctors and healthcare professionals and scientists, we feel exposed and vulnerable.
In these circumstances, I want to assure you that God loves you and will not abandon you. I can tell you that the Church and your priests will not abandon you. The Father sent his Son to bring us the fullness of life. Jesus Christ died on the cross and rose again on the third day to conquer sickness and death in all its manifestations. In today’s Gospel, Jesus exhorted the woman at the well to drink the living water that wells up to eternal life. Jesus looked into her soul and she believed in him. He looks into our souls in this time of need, and asks us to believe in him. “I am He”, he says to us, “I am the Saviour.”
I pray with all my heart that this coronavirus turns out to be short-lived, that the curve can be flattened, that health policies and precautions will be effective. I pray for our leaders, for our doctors, our scientists and our healthcare professionals. I have great trust in their judgment.
As good citizens and members of the community, we will do whatever has to be done both as individuals and as a Church.
We have been hearing of sporadic episodes of greed and selfishness among the population at large. This should not be happening. I remind us all that the Lord calls us to love, compassion, patience, kindness and goodness in every circumstance, especially in times of stress and danger.
Above all, whatever happens, I trust in the Father’s love, in the death and resurrection of his Son Jesus Christ, in the intercession of Mary and the Saints … My dear brothers and sisters, we will get through this with the help of God.”
[Editor’s Note: some nine months after writing this letter to encourage the faithful as the pandemic decended upon us, Archbishop Tartaglia lost his life because of the virus.]
In these difficult days, may all of us remember to take a moment to unite our prayers with those of the entire Church throughout the whole world, praying for the needs of all the world. And let us remember, too, to take another moment to pray for the Church herself, called to carry a heavy cross in this present moment, whilst at the same time encouraging, consoling and comforting us with the love of the Lord Himself.
May the Lord bless our Holy Father Pope Francis, the Bishops and Priests and indeed every one of us.
Mary, Mother of the Church, pray for us.