Pope Francis prays the Regina Coeli Pope Francis prays the Regina Coeli 

Pope at Regina Coeli: True love never stifles but leaves us free to love

Pope Francis prays the Regina Coeli with pilgrims in St. Peter’s Square on the feast of the Ascension, and reflects on the liberating love of Jesus who never leaves us as He ascends to the Father.

By Devin Watkins

Though traditionally celebrated on Thursday, many nations mark the Feast of the Ascension of Jesus Christ on the Sunday before Pentecost, including in Italy.

On Ascension Sunday, Pope Francis prayed the Eastertide Marian prayer of the Regina Coeli, and reflected on the day’s Gospel (Lk 24:46-53).

He noted that Jesus, in His final apparition to the disciples, did two things before ascending to God the Father: “He announces the gift of the Spirit, and then He blesses the disciples.”

Gift of the Spirit

Pope Francis said Jesus was not abandoning humanity as He goes to the Father. Rather, He promises to send the Holy Spirit, who “will accompany them, guide them, support them in their mission, defend them in spiritual battles.”

“In this too, we see Jesus’ love for us: His is a presence that does not seek to limit our freedom. On the contrary, He leaves space for us, because true love always generates a closeness that does not stifle, but which makes us agents.”

The Pope said Jesus’ ascension allows Him to become close to all humanity in the Holy Spirit, instead of remaining beside only a few people.

“The Holy Spirit makes Jesus present in us, beyond the barriers of time and space, to make us His witnesses in the world,” he said.

Blessing of God

The second action Jesus does before His ascension is to “bless the apostles,” which the Pope said is a “priestly gesture”.

“The Gospel wants to tell us that Jesus is the great priest of our life. Jesus ascends to the Father to intercede on our behalf, to present our humanity to Him. Thus, before the eyes of the Father, with the humanity of Jesus, there are and always will be our lives, our hopes, our wounds.”

Pope Francis added that Jesus also goes to prepare a place for us with God the Father in Heaven.

Loving others and praying for them

Our response to Jesus’ blessing, said the Pope, should be to be witnesses of the Gospel and to love others with the same kind of love we receive from God.

“Let us ask ourselves if we really are witnesses of the Gospel; and also, if we are capable of loving others, leaving them free and making room for them.”

Pope Francis concluded by inviting all Christians to pray for one another and serve them instead of our own interests.

“Let us learn intercessory prayer, by interceding for the hopes and sufferings of the world, for peace,” he said. “And let us bless with our eyes and our words those we meet every day!”

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29 May 2022, 12:08

What is the Regina Coeli?

The antiphon Regina Coeli (“Queen of Heaven”) is one of four traditional Marian antiphons, the others being Alma Redemptoris Mater, Ave Regina Coelorum, and Salve Regina.

It was Pope Benedict XIV who, in 1742, enjoined the recitation of the Regina Coeli in place of the Angelus during Eastertide, that is, from Easter Sunday to the end of Pentecost. It is recited standing as a sign of Christ’s victory over death.

Like the Angelus, the Regina Coeli is said three times a day, at dawn, at noon, and at dusk, in order to consecrate the day to God and the Virgin Mary.

This ancient antiphon arose, according to a pious tradition, in the 6th century; it is attested in documentary sources from the first half of the 13th century, when it was inserted in the Franciscan breviary. It is composed of four short verses, each ending with an “alleluia.” With the Regina Coeli, the faithful turn to Mary, the Queen of Heaven, to rejoice with her at the Resurrection of Christ.

At the Regina Coeli on Easter Monday of 2015, Pope Francis spoke about the spiritual dispositions that should animate the faithful as they recite this Marian prayer:

“In this prayer, expressed by the Alleluia, we turn to Mary inviting her to rejoice, because the One whom she carried in her womb is Risen as He promised, and we entrust ourselves to her intercession. In fact, our joy is a reflection of Mary’s joy, for it is she who guarded and guards with faith the events of Jesus. Let us therefore recite this prayer with the emotion of children who are happy because their mother is happy.”

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