In an empty St. Peter's Square, covered by dark clouds and hit by rain, stands an old man, dressed in white, in front of a microphone. Behind him, the heart of Christianity, St. Peter's Basilica. On Friday 27th of March, Pope Francis gave an extraordinary Urbi et Orbi blessing, praying for the end of the Covid-19 virus.
"Thick darkness has gathered over our squares, our streets and our cities; it has taken over our lives, filling everything with a deafening silence and a distressing void, that stops everything as it passes by".
With these words, Pope Francis addressed the entire world watching from their homes, holding their breath. Christian or not, believer or atheist, the image of an old man standing small in front of the power of what is the iconic trademark of the Vatican City, is a "punch in the stomach"image.
With a humble heart, the Pope prayed for the world in the company of the miraculous Crucifix brought to the Vatican from the church of San Marcello al Corso.
What is the Urbi et Orbi blessing?
"To the city and to the world" is the highest of blessings given by the Pope. Although used by the Vicar of Christ on the days of Christmas and Easter, the expression dates back to Ancient times, and has evolved from the consciousness of the Roman Empire.
Urbi et Orbi blessings are usually given from the Loggia (balcony) of St. Peter's Basilica, and are broadcasted worldwide, granting also a plenary indulgence to those who receive the blessing.
Symbols of Faith
Pope Francis prayed for the end of the pandemic in the presence of two images that have accompanied the people of Rome for centuries: the ancient icon of Mary Salus Populi Romani – usually housed in the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore– and the miraculous crucifix kept in the church of San Marcello on the city’s Via del Corso.
The Icon of Mary Salus Populi Romani was brought due to the devotion of Pope Francis for this particular Icon, symbol of the the salvation of the Roman People. As history teaches us, Rome was hit by a terrible pestilence during the 6th century AD. The city was brought on its knees, and to stop the tremendous plague, Pope Gregory the Great decided to lead a procession around the city, carrying the Icon in his hands. According to tradition, the Virgin Mary heard the prayers of the faithful and sent Archangel Michael to stop the pestilence. It is believed that the Archangel landed on top of whas was the Mausoleum of emperor Hadrain, known today as the Castle of the Angel (Castel Sant'Angelo).
As for the Crucifix, it is too miraculous as it stopped a plague that hit Rome as well. While praying, Pope Francis invite the faithful to see the Cross as the anchor of hope, considering that it is the anchor that saved us.
Concluding his meditation, Pope Francis encouraged everyone watching to not fear these dark times, reminding us that we are all on the same boat, saying that what is revealed is "our belonging as brothers and sisters"our sense of humanity.
Written by Nadya Borzak