Christmas is round the corner. This year’s will be extraordinary under many aspects, because humanity is still dealing with COVID-19. On March 27, 2020, in an unprecedented gesture, Pope Francis has prayed in St Pater’s Square for the end of this pandemic. The words of the Bishop of Rome seem to be relevant as never before.
Herbert Lauenroth, a member of the International Steering Committee of Together for Europe, wrote an empathetic introduction to the Pope’s words for the prayer session during the meeting of the ‘Friends of TfE’ which was held on November 14, 2020. His perspective leads us to “consolidate our own interiority […] without, however, closing ourselves inside our own home or our own identity”. (The complete text of the prayer, with the intercessions, can be downloaded from the bottom of the page).
The Lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in loving devotion. The Lord is good to all; His compassion rests on all He has made (Ps 145, 8-9). The words of the psalmist lead us into this space of God; a God who wants to be recognized and implored in all his passion, his com-passion, patience and mercy, in the fidelity of his love – a Creator of all his creatures and of all creation – , which is always a ‘faithful creativity”, a “faithfulness in the future”.
Let us stand around that frail man, clothed in white, who looks somewhat lost in that immense St Peter’s Square, which was completely empty, under an insistent rain that came down on that Friday evening of March 27. Together with him let us look at the “Eternal City”, which, albeit marvellous, seems empty, abandoned, and closed in its historical sites, in its monuments, mausoleums, museums, homes, palaces, places of worship, streets and squares. All empty. Let’s stand around that one man clothed in white, whom we recognize as to be the Bishop of Rome, and therefore, our brother; that evening, however, he was also: a shepherd without his flock, “a last man standing”. Together with him, let’s give visibility to communion in Christ; together with him, let’s beseech the Real Presence of the Lord: in the midst of our communities, the various denominations, nations and as members of ethnic and cultural realities; in our midst, in the midst of humanity, and by doing so, let us, together with Pope Francis bless” –“urbi et orbi” – the city of Rome and all the cities, our Countries and the whole of Europe, a Europe that is concerned with the entire world.
Yes, let us stand around the Bishop of Rome, whom we recognize as our brother, and pushed by the COVID-19 experience, let us give visibility to the Christian Community, a community that in this time of pandemic is characterized as an experience of a Co-Immunity; a communion that comes about – paradoxically – from the regulations and experiences of “social distancing”. At a time of enhanced global communion, this crisis brutally reminds us of the necessity to consolidate our interiority, our belonging to our own Church, family, vocation and personal history – without, however, closing ourselves inside our own homes or in our own identity. It is only thus that we can rediscover our true roots, our common belonging: that of being brothers and sisters, all equal for the fact that we are unique, intimately linked and yet completely distinct from each other: we are all brothers and sisters – in Christ!
Let us, therefore, gather around as a praying community so as to resound the words of Pope Francis, and to give them meaning and efficiency; words addressed to God, in the name of the people of God, through Jesus, through Jesus in our midst, through Jesus forsaken by the Father, whose mercy and com-passion were highlighted by the words of the psalmist.
The Lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in loving devotion. The Lord is good to all; His compassion rests on all He has made (Ps 145, 8-9).