For the first time in 12 weeks, members of the faithful have gathered in St Peter’s Square at the Vatican to receive the Pope’s apostolic blessing.
Officers of the Italian military police the Carabinieri worked with Vatican health officials to check pilgrims before admitting them to the square.
As has been his tradition during the pandemic, the Pope led the Regina Coeli prayer and message from his library and it was relayed to the people gathered in the square via a video-link. He then went to the window and imparted his blessing upon those gathered. Pilgrims were visibly moved and cheered as the Pontiff appeared at the window.
While the Vatican continues to celebrate the Ascension on the Thursday nine days before Pentecost, Pope Francis noted that in many other countries – including Ireland – it is celebrated on Sunday.
“The contents of the mission entrusted to the Apostles are these: to proclaim, baptise, and teach how to walk the path traced out by the Master, that is, the Gospel.”
Pope Francis said the message of salvation requires Christians to be witnesses, “to explain why we believe.”
He said that while there are difficulties, “we must not be discouraged, remembering the words Jesus addressed to them before ascending to Heaven: ‘I am with you always, to the very end of the age’”.
Reflecting on the gift of the Holy Spirit, the Pope said that “Spirit, sent by Christ and the Father, works for the remission of sin and sanctifies all those who are repentant and open themselves with confidence to His gift.”
Sunday also marks the Day of Prayer for the Church in China, a fact noted by the Pope in his remarks. “Dearest Catholic brothers and sisters in China, I wish to assure you that the universal Church, of which you are an integral part, shares your hopes and supports you in your trials.
“She accompanies you with prayer for a new outpouring of the Holy Spirit, so that the light and beauty of the Gospel might shine in you as the power of God for the salvation of those who believe,” he said.
Catholics in China celebrate Sunday as the feast of Our Lady, Help of Christians and Patroness of China on Sunday.
Meanwhile, the Holy See has announced that the Vatican museums will re-open to visitors on June 2.