Pope Francis on Sunday took a brief walking pilgrimage in the city of Rome, and prayed for an end to the coronavirus pandemic during a surprise visit to both the Basilica of St. Mary Major and a cross that traversed Rome during a 16th-century plague, The Catholic News Agency reports.
The pope went to the basilica to visit the icon of Salus Populi Romani, Mary Protection of the Roman People, to invoke her prayers against the coronavirus pandemic affecting Italy and the world.
Rome, like all of Italy, is currently under lockdown, with people required to stay home except for strict cases of necessity. All non-essential businesses are also closed.
While Italy remains the second most heavily affected country after China, where the virus first emerged, Pope Francis wanted to make the visit to encourage Italians during the quarantine conditions across Italy.
???? March 15 | #PopeFrancis visited San Marcello al Corso to pray for the end of the #coronavirus pandemic. He prayed in front of the same cross carried through #Rome in 1522 to end the “Great Plague.”— EWTN Vatican (@EWTNVatican) March 15, 2020
PC: #Vatican Media pic.twitter.com/WT5n5zoBAH
The pope walked about half a mile on foot to the Church of San Marcello al Corso to pray before a miraculous crucifix, which was once carried in procession through the streets of Rome during the plague of 1522.
The Pope also made a blessing over an eerily empty St Peter’s Square as Italy remained in lockdown over coronavirus.
After praying the Angelus from his library in the Vatican’s apostolic palace, #PopeFrancis blessed an empty St. Peter’s square and the city of Rome from his window. The faithful cannot gather in Rome due to measures put in place to contain the #coronavirus. ????Vatican Media pic.twitter.com/6XyGW7wWto— National Catholic Register (@NCRegister) March 15, 2020