Vatican authorises special Masses and Good Friday prayers for coronavirus pandemic

Pope Francis speaks in an empty St. Peter’s Square during a holy hour and extraordinary Urbi et Orbi blessing, March 27, 2020. Credit: Vatican Media/CNA

The Vatican has asked priests around the world to recite a new prayer during this year’s Good Friday liturgy, and urged them to offer Masses for the end of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Congregation for Divine Worship issued the new intention for the Solemn Intercessions during the Celebration of the Lord’s Passion in light of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Solemn Intercessions, which are derived from ancient prayers, are recited on Good Friday for various categories of people. They include the pope; bishops, priests and deacons; the faithful; catechumens, other Christians; the Jewish people; those who do not believe in Christ; those who do not believe in God; those in public office; and those in special need.

The new prayer is titled “For the afflicted in time of pandemic”. It begins with the priest saying: “Let  us  pray  also  for all  those  who  suffer  the  consequences  of  the  current  pandemic,  that  God  the Father  may  grant  health  to  the  sick,  strength  to  those  who  care  for  them,  comfort  to  families  and salvation to all the victims who have died.”

After a moment of silent prayer, the priest continues: “Almighty ever-living God, only support of our human weakness, look with compassion upon the sorrowful condition of your children who suffer because of this pandemic; relieve the pain of the sick, give strength to those who care for them, welcome into your peace those who have died and, throughout this time of tribulation, grant that we may all find comfort in your merciful love. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.”

The new prayer was presented with a decree signed by the congregation’s prefect, Cardinal Robert Sarah, and its secretary, Archbishop Arthur Roche.

The decree, dated March 30, said: “The Celebration of the Passion of the Lord on Good Friday this year has a particular significance because of the terrible pandemic that has stricken the whole world.

“Indeed, on the day on which we celebrate the redeeming passion and death of Jesus Christ on the Cross, who like a slain lamb has taken upon himself the suffering and sin of the world, the Church raises her voice in prayer to God the Father Almighty for all humanity, and in particular for those who suffer most, while she awaits in faith the joy of the resurrection of her Spouse.

“Therefore this Congregation, in virtue of the faculties granted to it by the Supreme Pontiff Francis, availing itself of a possibility granted in the Roman Missal to the diocesan bishop in a situation of grave public need, proposes an intention to be added to the Solemn Intercessions of the above mentioned celebration, so that the prayers of those who invoke him in their tribulation might reach God the Father and so that, even in their adversity, all can experience the joy of his mercy.”

The liturgy congregation also proposed that priests celebrate a votive Mass “specifically to implore God to end this pandemic.”

The New Liturgical Movement reported that an accompanying decree permitted the votive Mass to be celebrated daily, except on solemnities, the Sundays of Advent, Lent and Eastertide, Holy Week and the Octave of Easter, Ash Wednesday and All Souls’ Day.

A votive Mass is a Mass differing from the one prescribed for the day and celebrated for a special intention.

According to an unofficial translation on the Vatican News website, the Opening Prayer, or Collect, reads: “Almighty and eternal God, provident refuge in every danger, kindly turn your gaze toward us, who with faith implore you in tribulation, and grant eternal rest to the deceased, comfort to those who weep, health to the sick, peace to those who are dying, strength to healthcare providers, a spirit of wisdom to civil authorities, and a heart to draw near to everyone with love so that together we might glorify your holy name.”