Bishop John Keenan of Paisley./ YouTube screenshot.
A Catholic bishop known for his energetic promotion of the rosary has said that Pope Francis’ announcement of a global prayer marathon, starting Saturday, felt like a “divine confirmation.”
Bishop John Keenan of Paisley, Scotland, told CNA April 28 that the papal initiative mirrored a rosary campaign that has taken place across Britain since 2018.
“Hearing the pope’s announcement felt like a sort of divine confirmation that we had been doing what the Lord wanted and what Our Lady had inspired in us,” said Keenan, who has been dubbed “the rosary bishop.”
The pope will lead a rosary on May 1 at the start of a month-long prayer marathon for the end of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The rosary will be broadcast live from the Gregorian Chapel of St. Peter’s Basilica at 6 p.m. Rome time.
“I was delighted and really encouraged with Pope Francis’ request for Catholics around the world to pray the rosary daily in the month of May,” Keenan said.
“This is what we ourselves had been doing, starting three years ago, with our month of May rosary around the British Isles.”
The papal rosary kicks off a month of daily rosaries prayed at Catholic shrines around the world.
Keenan said: “The pope has even got involved 30 Marian shrines around the world to live stream their rosary so that the faithful could pray along from home online which, again, is exactly what we had been doing together with our Marian shrines across England, Wales and Scotland.”
“We had got the idea from Poland, which has passed it onto Ireland, and from there it spread to us in Britain, to the USA, Australia, and Africa.”
The first of the 30 shrines to lead the global rosary will be Walsingham in England.
The shrine will live stream the rosary at 6 p.m local time on May 1, immediately following the pope’s rosary.
Antonia Moffat, the shrine’s outreach coordinator, told CNA that it was a “total joy” that England’s national shrine of Our Lady had been chosen to start the prayer marathon.
“Spiritually speaking, it’s a massive consolation and an encouragement,” she said, following years of promoting nationwide rosary campaigns.
The rosary at Walsingham will launch a month of prayer called the Rosary Stronghold. Catholics across Britain will join together online at 8 p.m. each evening in May to pray the rosary.
Speaking of his hopes for the Rosary Stronghold, Keenan said: “Each year we have dedicated our May month of the rosary to praying for faith, love and life and the spread of peace.”
“Our prayer for faith is inspired by the message of Our Lady at Fatima, which is for a spirit of repentance to fall on us so that we can recognize the great refusal of God in our world and face up to the lack of fervor in so much of the Church and, in this way, open ourselves up to an outpouring of God’s mercy.”
“The first preaching of Jesus was to repent so as to really believe and take hold of the power of the Good News. For love and life, we are praying for our world to return and uphold the holiness of marriage and the sanctity of human life.”
He added: “And we see peace as the fruit of this return to God, as promised by Our Lady at Fatima who promised, ‘In the end, my Immaculate Heart will triumph … and a certain period of peace will be granted to the world.’”
For the past few months, the 56-year-old bishop has led the rosary live on his Facebook page at 9 p.m. local time each evening. He is joined by hundreds of people around the world.
“My daily evening rosaries came from a connection I made at the World Meeting of Families in Dublin [in 2018] with the organizers of the Children’s Rosary movement, which is based in the USA but is now worldwide,” he explained.
“The organizer invited me to lead my diocese and her movement in a child consecration to Jesus through Mary, beginning in January and culminating on the Feast of the Visitation.”
“Hundreds took part daily and began to comment online how sad they would be to see our evening rosary gathering coming to an end.”
“Since we are in lockdown and I have no evening appointments, there was no reason for me not to continue and I hope Our Lady can find a way for us to continue indefinitely.”
He added: “There are still hundreds joining every evening from their homes to pray for each other’s intentions which are posted onscreen, as well as for the needs of the Church and world.”
“For me, it is such a consolation as a bishop to be part of this family of Our Lady and it is a lovely way to end the day.”