VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis asked Catholics to make a special effort in May to pray the rosary, knowing that by doing so they will be united with believers around the world asking for Mary's intercession in stopping the coronavirus pandemic.
"Contemplating the face of Christ with the heart of Mary, our mother, will make us even more united as a spiritual family and will help us overcome this time of trial," the pope said in a letter addressed to all Catholics and released by the Vatican April 25.
The month of May is traditionally devoted to Mary and many Catholics already are in the habit of praying the rosary at home during the month, he noted. "The restrictions of the pandemic have made us come to appreciate all the more this 'family' aspect, also from a spiritual point of view."
"You can decide according to your own situations" whether to pray individually or in groups, he said, noting that "it is easy also on the internet to find good models of prayers to follow."
Pope Francis wrote two prayers to Mary that can be recited at the end of the rosary, prayers he said he would be reciting "in spiritual union with all of you."
Both prayers acknowledge Mary's closeness to her son's followers and ask for her protection and for her intercession just as she interceded with Jesus on behalf of the newlyweds at Cana who had run out of wine for their wedding feast.
"We know that you will provide, so that, as at Cana in Galilee, joy and celebration may return after this time of trial," one of the prayers read.
Pope Francis' prayers also include specific intentions for those who are sick, for those who care for them, for those who have died and those who mourn for them, for scientists seeking cures and vaccines and for government leaders who must find a way to protect their people.
"Mary Most Holy, stir our consciences, so that the enormous funds invested in developing and stockpiling arms will instead be spent on promoting effective research on how to prevent similar tragedies from occurring in the future," one of the prayers said.
"Beloved Mother, help us realize that we are all members of one great family and to recognize the bond that unites us, so that, in a spirit of fraternity and solidarity, we can help to alleviate countless situations of poverty and need," it continued. "Make us strong in faith, persevering in service, constant in prayer." Read the text of the letter and prayers.
The Vatican has updated its rules to stem the spread of COVID-19 and will require all its employees to be vaccinated against the virus or prove they have recently recovered from the disease.
The COVID-19 pandemic calls for an urgent reality check against baseless information and for increased efforts so everyone has access to vaccines, medicines and diagnostic tools, Pope Francis told diplomats from around the world.
One area of church life that Pope Francis has quietly sought to reform is religious life, namely the communities of nuns, religious sisters, monks and friars, and in particular the newer ones. Francis, a member of the Society of Jesus, one of the best-known religious congregations in the world, has sought to tackle problems in recently established orders. He has also publicly acknowledged the sexual, psychological and spiritual abuse of nuns both from priests and within their congregations.