VATICAN (CNS): In response to the ongoing Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic, Pope Francis said he will give an extraordinary urbi et orbi (to the city and the world) blessing at 6.00pm Rome time on March 27 (1.00am, March 28, Hong Kong time).
The formal blessing —usually imparted on Christmas and Easter, or immediately after the election of a pope—carries with it a plenary indulgence for all who follow by television, Internet or radio, are sorry for their sins, recite a few prescribed prayers and promise to go to confession and to receive the Eucharist as soon as possible.
After reciting the Angelus prayer on March 22 from the library of the Apostolic Palace, Pope Francis announced his plans for the special blessing, which would be given in an “empty” St. Peter’s Square because all of Italy is on lockdown to prevent further spread of the virus.
“We will listen to the word of God, raise our prayer (and) adore the Blessed Sacrament,” Pope Francis said, adding, “At the end, I will give the benediction urbi et orbi, to which will be connected the possibility of receiving a plenary indulgence.”
In addition to announcing the special blessing, Pope Francis said that at a time “when humanity trembles” because of the Covid-19 pandemic, he was asking Christians of every denomination to join together at noon on March 25, the feast of the Annunciation, to recite the Lord’s Prayer.
“To the pandemic of the virus we want to respond with the universality of prayer, compassion and tenderness. Let’s stay united. Let us make those who are alone and tested feel our closeness,” as well as doctors, nurses, other healthcare workers and volunteers, the pope exhorted.
Pope Francis also expressed concern for “authorities who have to take strong measures for our good” and the police and soldiers maintaining public order and enforcing the lockdown.
An indulgence is an ancient practice of prayer and penance for the remission of the temporal punishment a person is due for sins that have been forgiven. In Catholic teaching, a person can draw on the merits of Jesus and the saints to claim the indulgence for themselves or offer it on behalf of someone who has died.