Pope: crucifix our compass and hope in life

“Why are you afraid? Do you have no faith?” Is the title of a new book by the Vatican Department for Communication. It contains images and texts that recall Francis’ gestures and words in the extraordinary prayer and blessing “Urbi et Orbi” under confinement by coronavirus on March 27 last year.

By Robin Gomes

“I walked like this, alone, thinking about the loneliness of so many people … an inclusive thought, a thought with my head and heart, together”. These are the words of Pope Francis in the book that recalls the extraordinary moment of prayer he held on the night of March 27 last year, in the deserted and rainy St. Peter’s Square, begging humanity to be saved from the clutches of the deadly coronavirus. The live broadcast event was followed by crowds around the world.

The book, “Why are you afraid? Don’t you have faith? ”, It is a short interview with the Pope by Monsignor Lucio Adrián Ruiz, Secretary of the Department for Communication, in which the Holy Father relives that memorable event through photos. The title of the book, taken from the Gospel of Mark (Mk 4, 40), are the words of Jesus to his terrified disciples who awaken him from sleep in the boat that flies in the rough sea. Editora Vaticana (LEV) will make the book available to the public on December 17, when the Pope will be 85 years old.

The first part of the book includes the Pope’s passionate and powerful appeal to God for humanity at the March 27 event. The second part contains the development of this reflection in the light of the Gospel and the social doctrine of the Church that emerged in the months that followed that event. It encourages people to make the pandemic an opportunity to rethink the meaning of life and existence, to get out of it better and not worse, and to allow themselves to be questioned and converted.

All in the same boat

“Two things came to mind: the empty square, the people united at a distance … and on this side, the migrants’ boat, that monument …”, recalls the Pope in the interview. “And we are all in the boat, and in this boat we don’t know how many will be able to land … A whole drama in front of the boat, the plague, the loneliness … in silence …”, the Pope comments, emphasizing he did not feel alone, but in contact with people at that moment.

A particularly moving moment on that night of March 27 came when, after a moment of silent prayer in front of the soggy crucifix, he kissed Jesus’ feet. “Kissing the feet of the crucifix,” says the Pope, “always gives hope”. Jesus “knows what walking means and knows the quarantine because they put two nails in it to hold it.” “Jesus’ feet are a compass in people’s lives, when they walk and when they stand still. The Lord’s feet touch me a lot … ”, adds the Pope. In addition to the crucifix in that deserted square, there was also the image of Mary Salus Populi Romani (Maria, the health of the Roman people). The prayer service was a kind of stop in the time when Christians around the world were glued to the event in St. Peter’s Square, to invoke God’s mercy and rethink life in a personal and global way.

Reliving memory

The two parts of the book on prayer and teaching that are deeply intertwined, also provide QR code links to a rich variety of Vatican media content.

In line with the Pope’s message for World Communications Day 2020, the Department of Communication’s book also encourages the art of telling and sharing constructive stories that make us realize that we are all brothers and sisters, part of a story that is bigger than ourselves. The objective is not only to reconstruct a past event, but to propose a memory that today is made flesh to bear fruit.

At the conclusion of the first part, Dom Ruiz explains that the March 27 event was “a party that reflects history”, because it presents human drama to the merciful God. It is also history because God’s answer is His presence among His people. “The present moment”, explains the secretary of the Department, “is not only marked by this virus, but is fundamentally sealed by the presence of God”. This must be remembered and narrated so that it can be fixed in memory and be part of the “great story of God’s way with humanity”.

March 27 follow-up

The second part includes several interventions by the Pope in the months following the March 27 prayer service, calling for a change of direction and leading to the Pope’s last encyclical Fratelli tutti, which also includes passages related to the global pandemic.

In this regard, the Pope delivered a new series of catechesis on healing the world during his weekly general audience from August 5 to September 30, 2020. These reflections on the transformation of the roots of our physical, spiritual and social illnesses addressed topics as the common good, the preferential option for the poor, the care of the common home and subsidiarity. It is essential to focus on Christ, remembering that no one is saved alone, because the pandemic has made it concrete.