Photo: Pope Francis looks out at an empty St. Peter’s Square. Credit: Vatican Media.
Vatican City, Mar 22, 2020 / 07:05 am (CNA).- Pope Francis has asked Christians around the world to unite in praying the Our Father prayer at noon on March 25 in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
“In these days of trial, while humanity trembles at the threat of the pandemic, I would like to propose to all Christians to unite their voices to heaven,” Pope Francis said March 22.
“I invite … the leaders of all Christian communities, together with all Christians of various confessions, to invoke the Most High, Almighty God, while simultaneously reciting the prayer that Jesus Our Lord has taught us,” he said following the Angelus prayer.
March 25 is the Solemnity of the Annunciation, the date “when many Christians remember the Archangel Gabriel’s announcement to the Virgin Mary of the Incarnation of the Word,” the pope said.
“May the Lord hear the unanimous prayer of all his disciples who are preparing to celebrate the victory of the Risen Christ,” he said.
More than 311,900 people have contracted COVID-19 as of March 22, according to Johns Hopkins University. The respiratory disease, which originated in Wuhan, China, has spread to 157 countries, and has led to the deaths of 13,407 people worldwide.
Pope Francis announced on Sunday that he will also preside over a moment of prayer with Eucharistic Adoration in an empty St. Peter’s Square on Friday, March 27 at 6pm in Rome in which he will give the Urbi et Orbi blessing, usually reserved for Christmas, Easter, or other special occasions.
He invited all Catholics to participate spiritually through the media and noted that all who join in this prayer will have the possibility of receiving a plenary indulgence if they meet the obligations laid out in the decree issued March 20.
The Vatican’s Apostolic Penitentiary has granted a plenary indulgence for people who pray for an end to the pandemic, healing for the sick, and the eternal repose of the dead. Plenary indulgences, which remit all temporal punishment due to sin, must be accompanied by full detachment from sin.
In this case, the person must also fulfill the ordinary conditions of an indulgence, which are sacramental confession, reception of the Eucharist, and prayer for the intentions of the pope, by having the will to satisfy the conditions as soon as possible for them.
To receive the indulgence, a person may offer at least a half hour of adoration before the Blessed Sacrament or a half hour of prayer with scripture, or the recitation of the rosary or chaplet of divine mercy “to implore from the Almighty God an end to the epidemic, relief for those who are suffering, and eternal salvation of those whom the Lord has called to himself.”
“We want to respond to the pandemic of the virus with the universality of prayer, compassion, tenderness. Let us stay united,” Pope Francis said in his Angelus broadcast on March 22.
Reminding people to pray for the lonely, the elderly, doctors, nurses, and healthcare workers, the pope said it is also important to pray for government authorities and the police, who are trying to maintain order.
Pope Francis said he would like all Catholics to take time today to meditate on Sunday’s Gospel reading from chapter nine of the Gospel of John.
“At the heart of the liturgy of this fourth Sunday of Lent is the theme of light. The Gospel tells the episode of the blind man from birth, to whom Jesus gives the sight. This miraculous sign is the confirmation of Jesus’s claim about himself: ‘I am the light of the world,’ the light that illuminates our darkness,” Pope Francis said.
The beggar’s healing is a metaphor for the liberation from sin that Christ offers, he explained.
“Sin is like a dark veil that covers our face and prevents us from seeing ourselves and the world clearly. The forgiveness of the Lord removes this veil of shadow and darkness, and gives us new light. The Lent that we are living is an opportune and precious time to approach the Lord, asking for his mercy, in the different forms that Mother Church offers us,” Francis said.
“Most Holy Mary, help us to imitate the blind man of the Gospel, so that we can be flooded with the light of Christ and walk with him on the path of salvation,” Pope Francis prayed.