(Source: MJ/Vatican News)

In words following the recitation of the Marian Prayer on Sunday, Pope Francis highlighted an appeal launched by the Secretary General of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres, this week calling for an “immediate global ceasefire in all corners of the world” amidst the current coronavirus pandemic.

Calls for cessation of hostilities

From the Library of the Apostolic Palace, the Pope said he joined all those who had made this call and he invited everyone “to follow it up by ceasing all forms of hostilities, encouraging the creation of corridors for humanitarian aid, openness to diplomacy, and attention to those who find themselves in situations of vulnerability”.

Appeals for “renewed commitment to overcome rivalries” among nations

“May our joint fight against the pandemic bring everyone to recognise the great need to reinforce brotherly and sisterly bonds as members of one human family”, the Pope said.

“In particular, may it inspire a renewed commitment to overcome rivalries among leaders of nations and those parties involved. Conflicts are not resolved through war”.

Antagonism and differences, Pope Francis underlined, “must be overcome through dialogue and a constructive search for peace”.

Warns overcrowded prisons “could become a tragedy”

He also had a special mention for all those at this time who have to live in groups, such as those in nursing homes and barracks. 

The Pope also drew attention to those who are in prison.

In a special way, Pope Francis said,

“I would like to mention people in prisons. I have read an official memo from the Human Rights Commission which talks about the problem of overcrowded prisons which could become a tragedy.

“I call on the authorities to be sensitive to this serious problem and to take the necessary measures to prevent future tragedies”.

Catechesis: “Jesus could have avoided the death of his friend Lazarus, but he wanted to share in our pain”

In the meantime, during his catechesis at the Angelus on this fifth Sunday of Lent Pope Francis took inspiration from the day’s Gospel: the resurrection of Lazarus.

The Pope recalled the desperation of Martha and Mary who said to Jesus, “If you had been here, my brother would not have died”.

Pope Francis reflected that Jesus, according to the Gospel, is moved by the tears of the sisters and cries aloud for Lazarus to come out of the tomb, which he does, wrapped in strips of linen.

God gives life and takes life

The Pontiff noted that in the Gospel passage, “we are able to touch with our hand the fact that God is life and gives life, yet takes on the drama of death”.

“Jesus could have avoided the death of His friend Lazarus”, explained the Pope, “but He wanted to share in our pain for the death of people dear to us, and above all He wished to demonstrate God’s dominion over death.”

 In the Gospel, said Pope Francis, “we see that man’s faith and the omnipotence of God’s love seek each other and finally meet”.

Amid grief, continue to have faith

God’s response to the women’s cry of “if you had been here”, is not a speech, Pope Francis underlined; it is Jesus saying, “I am the resurrection and the life’… have faith”.

“Amid grief, continue to have faith, even when it seems that death has won. Take away the stone from your heart! Let the Word of God restore life where there is death”.

Take away the stone of marginalising and hypocrisy

The Pope pointed out, that even today “Jesus repeats to us: ‘Take away the stone’”.

“Therefore, Pope Francis continued, “we are called to take away the stones of all that smacks of death”, such as the marginalisation of the poor, and the hypocrisy with which faith is lived.

“The Lord asks us to take away these stones from our hearts”, said the Pope, “and life will then flourish again around us.”

In conclusion, Pope Francis prayed that “the Virgin Mary would help us to be compassionate like her Son Jesus, who made our pain His own”.

“May each of us”, the Pope said, “be close to those who are in difficulty, becoming for them a reflection of God’s love and tenderness, which liberates us from death and makes life victorious”.

Prayers at the Santa Marta Mass for “the many people weeping” due to coronavirus

Earlier on Sunday morning, the Pope expressed the desire during Mass at the Casa Santa Marta that this Fifth Sunday of Lent be a Sunday of tears. 

“I am thinking of the many people who are weeping”, Pope Francis said.

People who are isolated, in quarantine, the elderly, people who are alone, in the hospital, parents who do not foresee receiving their salary and do not know how they will feed their children, he continued.

“Many people are weeping. We too, from our hearts, accompany them. It wouldn’t do us any harm to weep a bit as our Lord wept for all of His people”.

During his homily, the Pope continued with the theme of weeping, reflecting on the raising of Lazarus (Jn 11:1-45).

Jesus had friends

Jesus loved everyone, the Pope affirmed. But He did have friends. This included a special relationship with Lazarus, Martha and Mary. “He would stay at their house a lot”, the Pope said.

“Jesus felt pain because of the sickness and death of His friend…. He arrives at the tomb and is profoundly moved and troubled.

“And Jesus breaks out in tears. Jesus, God, and man, weeps.

There is another time in the Gospel that says that Jesus wept: when He wept over Jerusalem.

With what tenderness Jesus weeps! He weeps from the heart. He weeps with love. He weeps with His own who weep…. Jesus always weeps out of love, always“.

Moved with compassion

How many times the Gospel repeats that Jesus “was moved with compassion”, the Pope recalled.

“Jesus could not look at the people and not feel compassion. His eyes are connected to His heart. Jesus sees with His eyes, but He sees with His heart and is capable of weeping”.

Are we capable of weeping?

With everything that is happening, with all the people who are crying because of the pandemic, the Pope invites us to ask ourselves if we are capable of weeping.

“Am I capable of weeping, as Jesus would certainly have done and does now? Is my heart like Jesus’s? And if it is too hard, [even if] I can speak and do good in order to help, if my heart isn’t entering in and I’m not capable of weeping, ask the Lord for this grace: Lord, that I might weep with You, weep with your people who are suffering right now”.

The Sunday of tears

The Pope then concluded his homily reminding everyone that many people are weeping today. “We ask the grace to weep” with “Jesus who was not ashamed to weep”.

“May today be for everyone like a Sunday of tears”.

Spiritual communion

After the Pope received communion, he invited all those watching or listening to the liturgy to make a spiritual communion.

He used the prayer composed by St. Alphonsus di Liguori:

My Jesus, I believe that You are present
in the Most Blessed Sacrament.
I love You above all things,
and I desire to receive You into my soul.
Since I cannot now receive you sacramentally,
come at least spiritually into my heart.
I embrace You as if you were already there,
and I unite myself wholly to You.
Never permit me to be separated from You.

Then followed a brief period of adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, after which the Pope gave Benediction with the Blessed Sacrament.

The liturgy ended with the intonation of the ancient Marian antiphon Regina Caelorum (“Hail, O Queen of Heaven”).

More on Novena on the Pope and the coronavirus crisis:

28/3: In Santa Marta Mass, Pope deplores people hungry, families in need due to coronavirus pandemic

27/3: Pope blesses world, says coronavirus “not God’s judgment” but our “time to choose”

Francis – to celebrate Easter without physical presence of faithful – donates respirators to coronavirus-hit hospitals in Italy, Spain

General Audience 25/3: On coronavirus, beyond, Pope urges world to embrace “solidarity, caring and welcome” of “culture of life”


Progressive Catholic journalist, author and educator. Working on social justice, equality and Church renewal.