Pope Francis presided over an extraordinary global celebration of prayer on Friday 27th March in Rome.
The Holy Father’s words come in an extraordinary setting. He prayed before an empty St. Peter’s Basilica, the platform at the top of the steps (above) immediately in front of the façade of the Basilica The “Salus Populi Romani” icon of Our Lady and the crucifix of St. Marcellus were placed in front of the central door of St. Peter’s Basilica. More than 11 million people in Italy and many millions more across the world watched as Pope Francis prayed in a deserted St Peter’s Square for an end to the Coronavirus .
The Holy Fathers words‘ Why are you afraid? Have you no faith?’ Pope Francis asked of the world the question Jesus asked of the apostles who cowered in fear in a storm-seized boat on the Sea of Galilee: Why are you afraid? Have you no faith?” The Holy Father referred to the story from the fourth chapter of Mark’s Gospel. But he explained that the storm the world faces today is the coronavirus pandemic, which has infected more than half a million people worldwide and resulted in more than 25,000 deaths. “It is easy to recognize ourselves in this story. What is harder to understand is Jesus’ attitude,” Pope Francis said. “While his disciples are quite naturally alarmed and desperate, he stands in the stern, in the part of the boat that sinks first. And what does he do? In spite of the tempest, he sleeps on soundly, trusting in the Father; this is the only time in the Gospels we see Jesus sleeping. When he wakes up, after calming the wind and the waters, he turns to the disciples in a reproaching voice: ‘Why are you afraid? Have you no faith?’ “The storm exposes our vulnerability and uncovers those false and superfluous certainties around which we have constructed our daily schedules, our projects, our habits, and priorities. It shows us how we have allowed to become dull and feeble the very things that nourish, sustain and strengthen our lives and our communities. The tempest lays bare all our prepackaged ideas and forgetfulness of what nourishes our people’s souls; all those attempts that anesthetize us with ways of thinking and acting that supposedly “save” us, but instead prove incapable of putting us in touch with our roots and keeping alive the memory of those who have gone before us. We deprive ourselves of the antibodies we need to confront adversity. “The Lord asks us and, in the midst of our tempest, invites us to reawaken and put into practice that solidarity and hope capable of giving strength, support, and meaning to these hours when everything seems to be floundering. The Lord awakens so as to reawaken and revive our Easter faith,” Pope Francis stressed. “Embracing his cross means finding the courage to embrace all the hardships of the present time, abandoning for a moment our eagerness for power and possessions in order to make room for the creativity that only the Spirit is capable of inspiring. It means finding the courage to create spaces where everyone can recognize that they are called, and to allow new forms of hospitality, fraternity, and solidarity. By his cross, we have been saved in order to embrace hope and let it strengthen and sustain all measures and all possible avenues for helping us protect ourselves and others. Embracing the Lord in order to embrace hope: that is the strength of faith, which frees us from fear and gives us hope.”
After the Holy Fathers words The Blessed Sacrament was exposed on the altar in the atrium of the Vatican Basilica.
The ceremony included readings from scripture, prayers of supplication, and adoration of the Blessed Sacrament It concluded with Pope Francis giving the Urbi et orbi Blessing, with the possibility of gaining a plenary indulgence for all those who listened to it live through the various forms of communication. This plenary indulgence was extended to all those who were not able to participate in the prayer through the media due to illness but who unite themselves in spiritual communion with the prayer.
It could well be remembered as one of the iconic images of Pope Francis’ Papacy , a moment when the successor of Peter experienced the weakness of human power, and pleaded with God to come to our aid.