Moment of prayer and “Urbi et Orbi” Blessing presided over by Pope Francis

Pope Francis in St Peter's SquareOn Friday, March 27, 2020, Pope Francis held a special Urbi et Orbi – an extraordinary blessing “to the city and the world.” Usually delivered only on Christmas Day and Easter Sunday, this Urbi et Orbi was delivered by the Holy Father to help bring an end to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Standing in front of an empty St. Peter’s Square, in a steady drizzle of rain, Pope Francis was flanked by two symbols to which, for centuries, the Church has turned in times of illness and pandemic: the icon of Mary Salus Populi Romani from the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore and the miraculous crucifix from the church of San Marcello in Rome. In 593, Pope Saint Gregory the Great carried the icon of Mary Salus Populi Romani throughout the city of Rome to bring an end to its plague, and in 1837, Pope Gregory XVI invoked the icon to bring an end to the cholera epidemic. The miraculous crucifix dates to the 15th century, and is credited, as well, with saving the city of Rome from a plague.

Upon seeing Pope Francis deliver his Urbi et Orbi, Georgetown’s Vice President for Mission & Ministry, Fr. Mark Bosco, recalled how moved he was by what he witnessed. “So many Hoyas,” he said, “wrote to me via email and Facebook, noting how much comfort they received at hearing the Pope’s meditation on the calming of the storm from the Gospel of Mark.” In his meditation, Pope Francis told his listeners that embracing the crucified Christ 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.”

Fr. Bosco noted that he was moved not only by the icons and symbols present at this extraordinary blessing, and not only by the words delivered by Pope Francis, but by the calm and quiet offered at the end of this service: “You sit with Pope Francis in silence before the Blessed Sacrament, and [join him in] a Eucharistic Benediction to impart a blessing to the city and the world.”

If you would like to read Pope Francis’ meditation, or watch the Ubri et Orbi service, please click here to access the text and the video on the Vatican News website.

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