Vatican Corner 03-22-2020

Pope Francis composed a prayer to the Virgin Mary, to ask for her protection for Rome, Italy and the en re world during the Covid -19 coronavirus pandemic. On March 11, 2020, a video of his reading the prayer was broadcasted at the beginning of Mass held at the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Divine Love near Rome. Seventy five years earlier, Pope Pius XII went to that same Sanctuary to pray before the statue of Our Lady to plead for the salvation of the city of Rome when the Nazi troops began to withdraw from Italy during World War II: Pope Francis’ prayer: O Mary, you shine continuously on our journey as a sign of salvation and hope. We entrust ourselves to you, Health of the Sick. At the foot of the Cross you participated in Jesus’ pain, with steadfast faith. You, Salvation of the Roman People, know what we need. We are certain that you will provide, so that, as you did at Cana of Galilee, joy and feasting might return after this moment of trial. Help us, Mother of Divine Love, to conform ourselves to the Father’s will and to do what Jesus tells us: He who took our suffering upon Himself, and bore our sorrows to bring us, through the Cross, to the joy of the Resurrection. Amen. We seek refuge under your protection, O Holy Mother of God. Do not despise our pleas – we who are put to the test – and deliver us from every danger, O glorious and blessed Virgin. Less than one day after Cardinal Angelo De Donatis, the vicar-general of Rome announced the closure to the public of all Roman churches, for a period of three weeks, in order to prevent the spread of the coronavirus and comply with the nationwide quarantine, he reversed himself. He said that he would leave that decision to parish pastors instead. The infection has been spreading exponentially with 17,500 cases in Italy so far and more than 1,250 deaths since Feb. 22. One great fear is that the healthcare facilities may be overwhelmed with the sick. The reversal came after more discussion with Pope Francis and after Francis spoke out against taking drastic response measures. The concern was that because of church closures, the “least ones” could feel even more uncertain, confused and isolated. Francis said, “Let’s pray for this, that the Holy Spirit may give to pastors the ability for pastoral discernment so that they might provide measures which do not leave the holy, faithful people of God alone, and so the people of God will feel accompanied by their pastors, comforted by the Word of God, by the sacraments, and by prayer.” The suspension of Masses until April 3 still stands, but Catholics will again have access to some parishes for private prayer. Currently, wherever people gather, there is the risk of catching the coronavirus. Eightly thousand people normally fill St. Peter’s Square for Easter Mass, therefore it has been decided that liturgies for Holy Week and Easter will be held this year without public attendance!