By Benedetta Capelli
One year ago the coronavirus pandemic suddenly took the world by surprise, causing a cascade of regional and national lockdowns to stop its spread.
At first, Italy was hardest hit in Europe, followed by other nations. Life came to a surreal standstill in Rome and all around the Vatican. In order to reach people during this time of fear and bewilderment felt by many, Pope Francis offered a way to reach out and bring people the consolation that comes from prayer and faith.
On 9 March 2020, he started to broadcast and live stream his daily 7 a.m. Mass celebrated at his Casa Santa Marta residence. In this way the celebration became a public moment, available to all. The broadcast became a regular appointment for the faithful around the world, even in China where people watched the celebrations.
Celebrating the Eucharist live, Pope Francis explained what he meant by doing this on that day: “In these days, I will offer Mass for the sick of this coronavirus epidemic, for the doctors, nurses, volunteers who help so much, family members, for the elderly who are in nursing homes, for the prisoners who are locked up. Let us pray together this week, this strong prayer to the Lord, 'Save me, O Lord, and give me mercy. My foot is on the right path. In the assembly I will bless the Lord.'"
The Church with the people
"Strong prayer," Pope Francis said, one that rises from his residence to become a one with prayers around the world for consolation, healing and overcoming the health and economic crisis.
Each day the Pope offered prayers for different groups of people facing difficulties: the sick, expectant mothers, the elderly, children far from school, healthcare workers, those who are fearful or sad, also for artists endowed with "very great capacity for creativity" who "through beauty show to us the path to follow” in trying to live out this period positively.
People around the world followed the live Mass broadcasts, participating spiritually. At the same time, attending Mass in person is essential, the Pope noted during one of his April homilies, but in safety: “This is the Church in a difficult situation, which the Lord permits, but the ideal of the Church is always with the people and with the Sacraments. Always.”
The broadcasts came to a conclusion in mid-May when the pandemic situation in Italy especially had improved.