Pope Francis prayed for the pandemic-ravaged Amazon region Sunday as he gave his first Regina Coeli address overlooking St. Peter’s Square since March.
Speaking from a window overlooking the square, the pope noted May 31 that the coronavirus had spread throughout the vast area of Amazonia in South America.
He said: “Seven months ago the Amazon synod ended; today, the feast of Pentecost, we invoke the Holy Spirit to give light and strength to the Church and society in the Amazon, which has been hard hit by the pandemic.”
“Many are the infected and the dead, even among the indigenous peoples, who are particularly vulnerable. Through the intercession of Mary, Mother of the Amazon, I pray for the poorest and most defenseless of that dear region.”
Traditionally, the pope leads the Sunday Angelus — and the Regina Coeli, between Easter Sunday and Pentecost — from the window of the Apostolic Palace overlooking St. Peter’s Square.
But from March 8 onwards, Pope Francis delivered his address via videolink from the library of the Apostolic Palace, and offered a blessing from the window above an empty St. Peter’s Square.
At the start of his address May 31, the pope expressed his delight at returning to the usual practice.
“Today the square is open, we can return,” he said, as people stood spaced out in the square below, many of them wearing medical masks. Security limited the number of people in the square as a safety measure.
The pope noted that the Church worldwide was celebrating the feast of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit descended on the Apostles gathered in Jerusalem.
He recalled that after the Resurrection Jesus had appeared to the disciples as they gathered fearfully behind closed doors. His first words to them were “Peace be with you!” (John 20:19). He said that these words were more than a mere greeting.
“They express forgiveness, the forgiveness granted to the disciples who, to tell the truth, had abandoned him,” he said. “They are words of reconciliation and forgiveness. And we too, when we wish peace to others, are giving forgiveness and asking forgiveness as well.”
The pope continued: “Jesus forgives, always forgives, and offers his peace to his friends. Do not forget: Jesus never tires of forgiving. It is we who tire of asking forgiveness.”
“By forgiving and gathering his disciples around him, Jesus makes them a Church, his Church, which is a reconciled community ready for mission. Reconciled and ready for mission. When a community is not reconciled, it is not ready for mission: it is ready to discuss within itself, it is ready for internal [discussions].”
The meeting with the Risen Lord turned the disciples into “courageous witnesses,” he said. They then took up the same mission that the Father had entrusted to Jesus, aided by the Holy Spirit.
The pope said: “The feast of Pentecost renews the awareness that the life-giving presence of the Holy Spirit dwells in us. He also gives us the courage to go outside the protective walls of our ‘cenacles,’ small groups, without resting in the quiet life or locking ourselves up in sterile habits.”
After praying the Regina Coeli, the pope recalled that Italy was marking the Giornata Nazionale del Sollievo, or National Relief Day, honoring those who help the sick. He led a moment of silent prayer for medical workers who had given their lives during the coronavirus pandemic.
He emphasized that leaders should put caring for people ahead of economic concerns.
He said: “I wish everyone a happy Pentecost Sunday. We need the light and the power of the Holy Spirit so much! The Church needs it, to walk together and courageously, witnessing to the Gospel. And the whole human family needs it, to come out of this crisis more united and no longer divided.”