Francis on Friday delivered an iconic image that stirred a country’s soul

By John L. Allen Jr, 31 March 2020
Pope Francis delivers a special Urbi et Orbi blessing at St Peter's Basilica, Rome, with the miraculous crucifix kept in the church of San Marcello on the Via del Corso in the foreground. Image: Vatican News.


Twenty years from now, if you were to ask Italians to think back about what images stuck in their minds from the coronavirus, it’s a good bet that after Friday night, many would give the same answer.

“Papa Francesco standing alone in St. Peter’s Square, under the rain, praying for it to end,” they’d likely say.

In one fell swoop Friday night, Francis not only delivered what seems destined to become the most iconic image of the pandemic, he effectively shut down what had been a mounting undercurrent of criticism about the supposed “invisibility” and “silence” of the Church.

The pontiff prayed before images of Maria, Salus Populis Romani, and the crucifix from the Roman church of San Marcello, both credited with protecting the city in times of plague. He also offered an Urbi et Orbi blessing, traditionally delivered only after a papal election and on Christmas and Easter, accompanied by a plenary indulgence.

“From this colonnade that embraces Rome and the world, may the blessing of God, like a consoling embrace, descend upon you,” the pope said.

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With thanks to Crux and John L. Allen Jr., where this article originally appeared.


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